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Central, South Coast Environmental Groups Praise Presidental Block of New Oil And Gas Exploration

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President Biden signed a bundle of executive orders Wednesday setting the stage for his administration’s environmental and climate change policies. The actions range from a pause on new federal oil and gas leases, to protections for federal lands.

Environmental leaders on the Central and South Coasts say they are thrilled after spending decades battling oil and gas drilling in the region.

Linda Crop is Chief Counsel for the Santa Barbara based Environmental Defense Center, which has battled oil and gas development in the region for decades.  She says not only are the President’s actions undoing some of the threats, they are advancing America’s efforts to turn to green energy.

The environmental community across the country, and on the Central and South Coasts has been largely on the defensive for the last four years, as the Trump Administration rolled back some environmental protections in the name of economic development.  It unsuccessfully pushed to reopen the Central and South Coasts to new oil and gas exploration.

Jeff Kuyper is Executive Director of the environmental group Los Padres Forestwatch.  He says they are hoping to use the actions as a steppingstones to a number of new protections.

Oil industry officials say with about a quarter of the nation’s oil coming from federal lands, the Biden Administration’s plans could have significant impacts.  But, they say in our region the effects will probably be minimal.

Kevin Slagle is the Vice President of Strategic Communications with the oil and gas industry trade group Western States Petroleum Association.  He says in California only about eight percent of the current production is on federal land.  He says its members have already been moving into green energy.

But, even iff the freezes become bans, we could still see an increase in oil and gas drilling during the next few years.  About half of the federal leases approved between 2014 and 2019 have not been used.

Still, the environmental community is celebrating the sharp turn the situation has taken from just six month ago.