Friday, May 29, 2009

Governor’s Oil Actions Threaten California Coastline

Governor Schwarzenegger’s austerity budget released just before the election included a strange and dangerous proposal to bypass the State Lands Commission’s public review of offshore oil drilling. Instead, the Director of Finance could override a vote of the three-member commission. It’s a strange proposal, since the Director of Finance is a member of the SLC, along with the Controller and Lieutenant Governor. So under the existing system, the Director needs only to convince one other member to carry any motion.

It’s a dangerous proposal since corruption by the Director of Finance is what led to the creation of the SLC in the first place. Undoing regulation enacted during the Great Depression and intended to protect against abuse of the public trust sounds eerily familiar to what created our current financial mess on Wall Street.

Read more here...

State Lands Commission will be discussing this issue on Monday, June 1st.

Support: Agenda Item 70. In January, the State Lands Commission denied an oil-drilling project in Santa Barbra and we need to make sure that decision is not overruled! Item 70 is a resolution opposing the Governor’s Budget Revision to override the State Lands Commission denial of the PXP oil-drilling project.

Read the resolution here.

Read Surfrider Foundation's position here.

(this is the last item on the agenda!)


City Of Santa Monica
City Hall Council Chambers
Room 213, Second Floor
1685 Main Street
Santa Monica, CA 90401

Friday, May 22, 2009

Three VA Gubernatorial Candidates Debate Oil Drilling

3 Candidates seeking the Democratic nomination for governor in Virginia met for a final debate before the June 9 primary. Two opposed one in favor.

Candidates were asked whether they think oil drilling should be allowed off the coast of Virginia, now that federal law will allow it starting in 2011.

Deeds: "Energy independence is a matter of national and economic security. I don't believe any means towards achieving independence should be taken off the table until the science takes it off the table, and that includes offshore drilling. ... If we can see royalties and protect the environment, protect fisheries, naval operations and tourism, then we ought to drill for gas."

McAuliffe: "I've been consistent from the start of this campaign. There was bipartisan legislation passed, signed by Governor Kaine, supported by Governor Kaine, that said no oil drilling and limited exploration of natural gas. I said this from the beginning. This was a bill that Brian supported. It wasn't even a close vote. I support the legislation passed in a bipartisan way and supported by the governor."

Moran: "I do oppose offshore drilling. Right now the technology does not exist to distinguish between oil and gas. We also have a $1 billion tourism industry in Virginia, well, a billion dollars in Virginia Beach. We need to be concerned about those jobs. We are asked to pay millions of dollars to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. Also, the United States Navy opposes offshore drilling. Those are jobs. ... So there are a number of reasons to oppose offshore drilling."


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Subverting State Lands Commission is Not The Answer

On January 29, 2009, the California State Lands Commission denied the Tranquillon Oil & Gas project in a 2-1 vote. At that time the SLC attorneys, in consultation with the Attorney General’s office, concluded that the agreement could not be reliably enforced. In addition, there were concerns about the Minerals Management Service (MMS) not including an end date in the federal permit.

Now the Governor and the Director of Finance, Michael Genest, are proposing special legislation via the budget process to circumvent this decision to try and find money for the state budget.

The Surfrider Foundation is opposed to any effort to undermine the decision making process of California state agencies.

Read our opposition letter here.

Monday, May 11, 2009

All that's missing is the oil rigs

All that's missing are the oil rigs: Proponents of drilling as close as three miles off Florida's Gulf beaches almost pushed their plan through the Legislature. They plan to try again in 2010.

This is the heading of a recent article "Florida's warm up drill" from the Herald Tribune that talks about just how close oil drilling proponents got to open Florida's nearshore coast to oil drilling.

This article is the first in a series. Read it here.

How Did it Come So Close in Florida this Year?

Hearld Tribune Opinion Piece

Proponents of the recent plan to allow oil drilling off Florida's coast came far too close -- in more ways than one. Their progress has encouraged them to try again next year. And opponents had better be ready.

The legislative proposal -- which would have permitted oil and gas drilling as close as three miles off Florida's Gulf Coast beaches -- surfaced without advance notice, only 10 days before the end of the Legislature's 60-day session. The legislation was approved, 70-43, by the Florida House of Representatives. Fortunately for Floridians who value their tourism-based economy and clean coastal environment more than they do oil-drilling royalties, had Senate President Jeff Atwater to take up the far-reaching, last-minute legislation without what he called a "serious review."

Opponents of drilling off Florida's coast -- whether they are environmental groups, public officials or private citizens -- need to conduct their own "serious review." They need to learn how this monumental legislation got so far, so quickly; what it proposed to do; what the impacts of the plan would be; and how to prevent it from becoming law.

HOW it began This Year

The genesis of the House bill was likely Congress' decision last September not to extend a 26-year-old ban on new oil leases in U.S. coastal waters. A ban specific to the eastern Gulf, negotiated in 2006, remains in effect but applies only to federal waters -- those outside the state's 10-mile limit.

Since 1990, Florida itself has explicitly banned oil and gas exploration or drilling in state waters, which extend from three to 10 miles offshore. The recent House bill (HB 1219) would have repealed that ban.

Drilling in state waters would be a boon to oil companies: Shallow waters would make drilling easier and cheaper, and proximity to the shore would lower the cost of transporting the oil or gas, by pipeline or tanker.

Exactly who initiated the push for near-shore drilling is not clear, but the consensus is that Texas oil companies are behind the effort. Bishop told the Herald-Tribune's Follick that, halfway through the legislative session, Associated Industries was recruited by lobbyist David Rancourt, who represented a group called Florida Energy Associates.

Enlisting the next speaker

Energy Associates, which had been working on the proposal for months, then persuaded Rep. Dean Cannon, a Winter Park Republican designated to be House speaker in 2010, to be the measure's chief advocate. The group had already drafted the amendment language and hired a public relations company to promote it, a polling company and an economist to provide revenue estimates, according to the St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald bureau in Tallahassee.

The proponents' approach was subtle and cynical. They said they sought only "dialogue" on the issue of near-shore drilling. Their bill would allow the governor and the three-member state Cabinet to accept bids for leasing near-shore tracts for exploration.

The state would collect a nonrefundable fee of $1 million just for hearing a presentation, plus royalties if drilling were permitted. The proponents cited the "breathtaking economic opportunity" by which the state could gain $31 billion in revenues over 20 years, much of which the legislation targeted for such worthy causes as the Florida Forever land-acquisition fund, solar energy incentives and beach renourishment projects.

What they didn't say

The proponents didn't say the bill went beyond "dialogue," directing the Department of Environmental Protection to "develop a plan, including legislative recommendations, for the implementation of an offshore oil and natural gas drilling program."

They also didn't note that the estimated revenue pales in comparison with Florida's $65 billion per year tourism industry -- much of which depends on clean and unobstructed waters, views and shorelines.

The proponents' pitch was nothing new. Similar presentations have been made for years in Washington. The only surprise is that 70 state representatives would agree so quickly to risk Florida's economy and environment for a relative pittance.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Flordia Drilling bill was designed to deceive

By Eric Ernst, Sarasota Herald-Tribune Columnist

He wasn't talking about the majesty of sunsets or the diversity of plants and animals or the web of life whose complexities we cannot fathom.

Nope. When state Rep. Charles Van Sant, R-Keystone Heights, said, "We should humble ourselves and thank God for blessing us with His abundance ..." he was talking about drilling for oil as close as three miles off the shores of Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties.

Unfortunately, the wheeling and dealing behind Van Sant's bill had a less-than-heavenly quality to it.

At the first House committee hearings, while conservationists scrambled to catch up with a fast-moving target, Florida business groups and two Texas oil companies came prepared with full-scale presentations.

The strategy was designed not to foster honest, open dialogue about what's best for the state, but to whisk through legislation that would likely disintegrate under objective scrutiny.

Whenever a bill appears out of nowhere at the close of a legislative session, you can be pretty sure someone's ready to make a lot of money at the public's expense.

In this case, the likely beneficiaries would be out-of-state oil speculators.

The losers would be anyone whose livelihood or general sense of well-being relies on the natural beauty and bounty of the Gulf of Mexico. Whether we think about it or not, that's most of us. The value of our homes and businesses is directly related to the attraction of Florida's natural resources to people from other areas. Mess with the aesthetics or the diversity of species, and we're just another Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

A second clue that something stinks arises when no one will take credit for the genesis of a bill. That happened here. Who really came up with the idea, and why? No one will admit to it.

As Rep. Ron Saunders, D-Key West, puts it, "There's somebody's fingerprints on this, and they're trying to wipe the fingerprints off."

Backers of offshore drilling claimed to have a poll showing public support. If true, it would be interesting to see how the poll's questions were asked. If a poll asked, "Would you be willing to risk an oil spill or related environmental catastrophe in your own back yard for the sake of lowering the price of gasoline by 3 cents a gallon 10 years from now?" the public's response might differ.

The Senate leadership wisely killed the oil-drilling bill, but rest assured it will be back. Stay tuned to the ads in the meantime.

Claims of public support to the contrary, we still need to be softened up.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson's Stance on Oil Drilling

A few years ago, I won passage of a bill in the U.S. Senate to keep offshore drilling some 125 miles from Florida's Panhandle and 235 miles away from most of Florida's west coast until at least 2022.

But just recently, some members of the Florida Legislature decided they want to allow oil rigs within a three- to ten-mile range offshore, where the state and not the federal government controls the waters.

This just defies reason. Why would we want to undo the coastal protections wisely put and kept in place by Governors Graham, Chiles, and Bush?

These protections have spared our state's economy and environment from the ravages of industrializing and degrading our coastline. Those who now propose to allow drilling and refineries know full well their plan will do nothing to reduce energy prices or our country's reliance on oil. This simply is the agenda of big-oil interests hiding behind advocacy groups seeking to control Florida's lawmaking.

Thankfully, Governor Crist echoed the wisdom of his predecessors by opposing combining renewable energy legislation with a bill to open Florida's state waters to near-shore oil drilling. I joined ten other members of our Florida congressional delegation in thanking him for his stance and encouraging him to continue to oppose this bill. I look forward to continuing to work with him to protect and preserve Florida's unique environmental resources—and the state's economic livelihood.

Read more.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Feinstein's response to new oil drilling

Thank you for writing to me to express your opposition to opening the Outer Continental Shelf to oil and gas exploration. I appreciate hearing your thoughts about this important energy issue, and I welcome the opportunity to respond.

As you may know, Congress acted to protect the federal waters off of the California coast - including waters as close as three miles offshore - from oil and gas exploration in 1981. I am deeply disappointed that the 27-year-old moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling were allowed to expire on October 1, 2008.

After the moratorium expired, the Department of the Interior - under the direction of then-Secretary Dirk Kempthorne - drafted a five-year leasing plan for the newly opened areas. The public comment period for the leasing plan was originally set to end in March 2009, but Secretary Ken Salazar extended the public comment period until September and directed the Department of the Interior to review the leasing plan drafted by the Bush Administration.

I do not believe the United States can drill our way to energy independence, and I am pleased to learn that Secretary Salazar will review the flawed offshore drilling policy of the Bush Administration. According to the Department of Energy, lifting the moratoria will likely not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030. I also continue to believe that lifting the moratoria on offshore drilling is a false promise and an unnecessary risk. The risk of an oil spill is too great for California's coast, which is a unique natural resource linked to thousands of jobs in multiple industries.

Please know that I share your concerns, and I will keep your thoughts in mind as I continue working to advance measures that decrease our dependence on oil, invest in clean renewable energy and increase our energy security.

Again, thank you for writing. If you have additional comments or questions, please feel free to contact my Washington, D.C. staff at (202) 224-3841. Best regards.

Sincerely yours,
Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator