By KATHERINE ZEHNDER
NEWS-PRESS STAFF WRITER
U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal has applauded the Biden administration’s announcement that it has no plans to sell new leases for offshore drilling on the California coast for the next five years.
“The Central Coast knows the devastation that oil spills can bring to our community, our wildlife, and our local economies. That’s why I’m proud to see the Biden-Harris administration confirm that it has no plans to create new California offshore drilling projects in the coming years, something I’ve pushed for since my first bill in Congress,” Rep. Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, said in a statement.
“I’m disappointed, however, that similar limitations are not in place for other U.S. coastlines like the Gulf Coast,” Rep. Carbajal added. “Oil spills pose too great a risk, and while I understand the pressing need to bring down gas prices for Central Coast families, leases approved even tomorrow will do nothing to bring down the price at the pump for years and years to come.
“And as Big Oil continues to underutilize current leases that they’ve held for years, there is no reason to continue putting our coastlines and marine life at risk,” Rep. Carbajal said.
On Friday, the Department of the Interior issued the “Proposed Program” for the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2023-2028.
The proposal, which will now be open for public comment over the coming months, includes plans for new offshore leases off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico and in Alaska, something Rep. Carbajal opposes.
Earlier this year, Rep. Carbajal led a group of 62 House Democrats, including 17 members of the California delegation, in an effort to get the House Appropriations Committee to include language in the 2023 federal budget that would prohibit federal funds from being used for any new oil or gas leasing, pre-leasing, or exploration in the Outer Continental Shelf off the Pacific and other U.S. coastline.
“Today, based on my team’s work and my direction, the Department of the Interior is inviting the public to comment on a proposed offshore leasing program that will chart our course forward over the next five years,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement Friday. “This is the second step in a three-step planning process to determine whether or how many offshore oil and gas lease sales to hold over the next five years. The proposed plan puts forward several options from no lease sales up to 11 lease sales over the next five years.
“Like the current program finalized in 2016, it removes from consideration the federal waters off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts while inviting public comment on 10 potential sales in the Gulf of Mexico and one in the Cook Inlet off south-central Alaska,” Secretary Haaland said. “A proposed program is not a decision to issue specific leases or to authorize any drilling or development.
“From day one, President Biden and I have made clear our commitment to transition to a clean energy economy,” Secretary Haaland said. “Today, we put forward an opportunity for the American people to consider and provide input on the future of offshore oil and gas leasing. The time for the public to weigh in on our future is now.”
Rep. Carbajal’s first bill introduced in Congress in 2017 was the California Clean Coast Act, which would permanently ban new oil drilling and leasing off the California Coast. He has championed that bill in each of his terms in Congress, and in 2019 that bill was passed in the House as a part of a package of offshore drilling-related legislation.