Paul Rogers, THE SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS
Imploring President Barack Obama to leave a landmark environmental legacy, Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday asked the president to permanently ban all new offshore oil and gas drilling in federal waters off California’s coast before he leaves office next month.
“California is blessed with hundreds of miles of spectacular coastline; home to scenic state parks, beautiful beaches, abundant wildlife and thriving communities,” Brown wrote in a letter to Obama. “Clearly, large new oil and gas reserves would be inconsistent with our overriding imperative to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and combat the devastating impacts of climate change.”
Tuesday marked the first time that Brown has asked Obama for such a sweeping ban. In recent weeks, environmental groups and Democratic members of Congress, including California’s two U.S. senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, also have urged the president to protect the state’s coast by taking advantage of a 63-year-old federal law that has never been used so broadly.
The movement has gained increasing urgency among opponents of offshore drilling given President-elect Donald Trump’s recent decisions to nominate oil industry officials and Republicans sympathetic with the oil industry to key positions after he takes office Jan. 20.
On Tuesday, Trump chose Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as his nominee for secretary of state, amid reports he has settled on former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, an enthusiastic supporter of more drilling, to be his energy secretary. Previously, Trump nominated Scott Pruitt, the attorney general of Oklahoma, to run the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt also has supported more oil and gas production and is skeptical of the scientific consensus that the climate is warming in part because of the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas.
“We’ve never seen a cabinet so full of oil industry shills,” said veteran coastal activist Richard Charter of Bodega Bay, a senior fellow with the Ocean Foundation. “These people are going to drill anything that’s not nailed down. There are no checks and balances left. Taking the California coast off the table right now would be a very smart move.”