State officials wanted OCS off California included in permanent ban

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and Coastal Commission Chair Dayna Bochco each asked US President Barack Obama on Dec. 13 to add federal waters off the state’s coast to portions of the US Outer Continental Shelf he permanently closed to future oil and gas activity a week later under Section 12-A of the 1953 OCS Lands Act (OGJ Online, Dec. 20, 2016).

Their letters and one that 26 state senators and senators-elect wrote on Dec. 1 indicate that the White House was in contact with at least one coastal state prior to Obama’s formal announcement banning future federal offshore oil and gas leasing along the entire US Arctic OCS and the Atlantic OCS from New England to Virginia.

Oil and gas industry associations and others are exploring options to overturn the lockup, ranging from determining whether the incoming 115th Congress can cancel it under the Congressional Review Act to lawsuits questioning whether it violates OCSLA’s underlying purpose.

“California is blessed with hundreds of miles of spectacular coastline—home to scenic state parks, beautiful beaches, abundant wildlife, and thriving communities,” Brown said in his letter. “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.”

California has long opposed future federal lease sales off its coast and appreciates the US Department of the Interior’s not including any in the 2017-22 OCS management plan it is developing, Bochco said.

“Our long history with offshore oil and gas activities have taught us, especially in the aftermath of the 2015 Santa Barbara County Refugio Oil Spill, that such development can significantly threaten California’s coastal environment and its extremely important multibillion dollar coast and ocean economy,” she said.

Plains All American Pipeline LP’s Coastal crude oil pipeline spilled more than 500 bbl into the Pacific Ocean after rupturing on May 19, 2015 (OGJ Online, May 20, 2015). The 150,000 b/d, 24-in. pipeline carries crude from ExxonMobil Corp.’s Las Flores Canyon processing plant to a pump station in Gaviota, Calif., about 15 miles from Santa Barbara. The pipeline leaked into a culvert which then transported the oil to the Pacific Ocean, creating a 4-mile slick.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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