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California Lawmakers Considering Bills to Prevent Offshore Drilling

Companion legislative proposals from the California legislature are on track for passage before lawmakers adjourn on Aug. 31, a state Senate staff member told NGI on Thursday.

State Senate Bill (SB) 834 prohibits developing oil pipelines, platforms and piers in the three-mile area off the state's 1,000-mile coastline; Assembly Bill 1775 is a near-mirror.

Both bills have cleared committees and are slated for floor votes next week, according to the state Sen. Mike McGuire’s legislative staff specialist. McGuire co-authored SB 834.

The Trump administration earlier this year proposed to expand offshore oil and natural gas drilling, including in politically sensitive areas on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. A number of coastal states have pushed back, including California.

Last spring, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke predicted that states opposed to opening more than 90% of the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) to oil and gas exploration "will be very happy" with a draft proposal scheduled to be issued this fall.

McGuire said the two bills are intended to counter the Trump administration plans. "This is the most important step that California can take to protect our coast and our economy," he said.

Backers of the legislation concede that the federal government controls drilling beyond the three-mile limit. The rationale behind the bills is to isolate those waters from facilities needed to bring undersea oil ashore.

The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) opposes the legislation.

"California's oil industry has concerns with both bills," said WSPA spokesperson Kevin Slagle. "These measures would remove the State Lands Commission's long-standing regulatory authority to preside over oil production matters and ensure that oil is transported by the safest methods available.'

Slagle said SB 834 in particular could adversely impact existing oil and gas leases. "The bill could have an immediate negative impact on our state's energy supply and Californians who work in our industry."

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