Trump's half-baked offshore drilling plan is not safe

President TrumpDonald John TrumpActivists highlight Trump ties to foreign autocrats in hotel light display Jose Canseco pitches Trump for chief of staff: ‘Worried about you looking more like a Twinkie everyday’ Dershowitz: Mueller's report will contain 'sins' but no 'impeachable offense' MORE’s plan to open California’s iconic coast to unsafe oil and gas drilling is unfolding minute-by-minute. First, he and Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeAlaska oil and gas lease sale nets .5 million Former Koch adviser to oversee Interior Department's FOIA requests The Year Ahead: Dems under pressure to deliver on green agenda MORE proposed opening the largest swath of our country’s offshore drilling reserves ever offered to oil companies. Then, they proposed rolling back critical safety measures in place to prevent oil spill disasters.  

These announcements were not just half-baked remarks to put a smile on the face of Big Oil. The Trump administration is hellbent on expanding drilling throughout our waters, a shameless money grab that flies in the face of what Californians care about.

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Trump’s plan is very real, and neither he nor Zinke have any intention of slowing down. That’s why our leaders in Congress must step up and stop it themselves, declaring the California coast off-limits to the whims of Big Oil.

Our state remembers well the tragic oil spills that caused irreversible damage to our oceans. From San Francisco to Santa Barbara, these preventable disasters destroyed habitats, killed wildlife, and devastated coastal communities that rely on beaches for their livelihoods.

At a time when the deadliest wildfire in California history continues to burn, we need bold action to fight climate change and transition our economy away from dirty fossil fuels. California has done our part, passing 100 percent renewable energy requirements by 2045 to move toward a clean energy future. We need to invest in technologies to mitigate climate disasters, not recklessly expand offshore oil drilling.

But Trump’s plan would do just that, and force Californians to consider these catastrophes an everyday possibility. In his effort to enact unprecedented (and incredibly dangerous) policy rollbacks, the administration is going over California’s head to bypass regulations that exist to keep communities safe.

There’s a reason why the state has not issued a new gas lease since the devastating 1969 spill in Santa Barbara. We’ve been through enough disasters to know what we’re getting into — expanding drilling would undermine the health and safety of our beaches, and threaten critical ecosystems. Marine life, many endangered, would lose their lives and habitat.

Expanding offshore drilling would also harm coastal economies that depend on tourism and outdoor recreation. More than 500,000 Californians have jobs that depend on ocean-related activities, recreation that contributes more than $44 billion to our economy each year. The coastal economy generates an annual $662 billion in wages and $1.7 trillion in gross domestic product. These staggering numbers can only continue growing if we protect the resource that fuels that economic engine.

Californians have made it clear that drilling off our coast is not worth the problems it creates. Our recent bipartisan poll shows that a majority of voters in three critical congressional districts (CA- 25, CA-45 and CA-48) think protecting our beaches and ocean is more important than increasing our oil production. Residents across the political spectrum can agree on one thing: They don’t want offshore drilling to happen. Fortunately, our elected leaders have the power to step up and ensure that it doesn’t.

Thankfully, the state legislature passed crucial legislation to prevent offshore drilling in state-controlled waters. These bills were recently signed by Gov. Jerry Brown (D) to prevent new offshore oil drilling in California by blocking the construction of infrastructure that transports oil and gas from federal waters to state lands.

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Additionally, Californians elected new decisionmakers to the House of Representatives who vowed to take up this charge. Our lawmakers must resist the politics of pollution, and stand in firm opposition to offshore oil drilling. We need more leaders who support our public lands and waters, and are committed to using their power in Congress to disrupt activities that will destroy them.

We need members of Congress from the Atlantic to the Pacific to join them and use their positions to block Trump’s assault on our coast, and ward off other rampant abuses by the administration and cabinet officials. If we don’t want coastal devastation to become the new normal, our members in Congress must step up to oppose offshore drilling — here, or anywhere else. 

Mary Creasman is CEO of the California League of Conservation Voters.