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Governor Brown Urges President Obama To Ban Oil Drilling Off California's Coast

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Platform Heritage off the coast of Santa Barbara. (Photo by Glenn Beltz via the Creative Commons)
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Following the lead of state lawmakers, Governor Jerry Brown called on President Obama to ban offshore oil drilling in the waters of California.

"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 the letter Tuesday. "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. Now is the time to make permanent the protection of our ocean waters and beaches from new oil and gas drilling."

The letter, unsurprisingly, comes as Obama's term in office ends to make way for President-elect Donald Trump, who, by the way, has called climate change a hoax, called for more drilling, picked Exxon Mobil's CEO for Secretary of State, and has reportedly just tapped someone that scores a 3% with the League of Conservation Voters for Secretary of the Interior. Yikes!

According to the L.A. Times, it'd be unclear if President-elect Trump would be able to reverse such a ban.

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Santa Monica-based environmental group Heal the Bay applauded Brown for the letter. "We've seen first-hand how oil spills can kill marine life and spoil once-pristine shorelines, such as the recent Refugio spill in Santa Barbara," Heal the Bay spokesperson Matthew King said in a statement to LAist. "As climate change worsens, it's simply time to embrace cleaner, less damaging forms of energy production. Let's invest in the future, not hold onto harmful practices of the past." Last year, Heal the Bay led the charge when voters in Hermosa Beach rejected a proposal to drill for oil in the Santa Monica Bay.

The California State Lands Commission controls the waters up to 3 miles offshore and they have not been opened to any new oil exploration since the Santa Barbara oil spill of 1969 (drilling continues at existing sites off Santa Barbara). The waters beyond that, up to 200 miles offshore, are under the jurisdiction of the federal government. The last oil exploration off California in those further waters was done in 1981, the same year a federal moratorium on offshore drilling went into effect. That moratorium was lifted in 2008, but there still hasn't been any oil development off the Golden State since.

Today's letter comes as the governor has the oceans on his mind. He's currently in Coronado launching the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification with the governors of Washington and Oregon, as well as representatives from Chile and France. Along with climate change, ocean acidification is another unfortunate effect of rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Sea surface waters have gotten 30% more acidic since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, according to NOAA, negatively affecting biodiversity, especially coral reefs and animals with a calcium shell (shellfish).

Brown also signed an agreement today with the Department of the Interior to explore the options of renewable energy off our coasts, including wind and wave energy.

With the future uncertain, California could be leading the progressive charge against the forthcoming Trump administration. In September, Brown signed the most ambitious greenhouse gas laws in the country, and today's actions show he's not done yet.