California Will Block Oil And Coal Shipments, Risks Constitutional Battle

Chris White | Energy Reporter

California officials plan on preventing the federal government from transporting oil and gas using existing pipelines in the state, according to a report Wednesday from The San Francisco Chronicle.

Officials on the California Coastal Commission are urging the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to rescind plans allowing companies to drill for oil off the coast. They are still hoping for an exemption from the oil drilling plan, that Florida has received.

“Given how unpopular oil development in coastal waters is in California, it is certain that the state would not approve new pipelines or allow use of existing pipelines to transport oil from new leases onshore,” coastal commissioners Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, State Controller Betty Yee, and state Department of Finance Director Michael Cohen wrote in a letter Wednesday to the BOEM.

The agency will also be holding a meeting in Sacramento Thursday to take public comment on President Donald Trump’s administration’s offshore drilling plans. The public question session will not be enough for a state with a population of nearly 40 million people, officials say.

Trump issued executive orders in 2017, nixing former President Barack Obama-era regulations on offshore drilling that are worth $288 million over a decade.

Obama put the rules in place after six years of study into the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. A natural gas leak caused the explosion and released millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

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The California Coastal Sanctuary Act bans new oil and gas leasing in state waters and the state has not issued a lease for offshore drilling and gas development since 1968. Newsom, a Democrat, blasted Trump’s support of the fossil fuel industry, as well as his decision to open California up to oil production.

“President Trump’s offshore oil drilling plan is a step backward in time, toward an energy policy that blindly handcuffs the nation to an unsustainable future,” Newsom said in a statement after the commission sent the letter.

California’s decision could set it on a collision course with the Trump administration.

The state has control over the first three miles west from the coast, and the federally owned Outer Continental Shelf includes waters up to three miles out from that line.

California officials can therefore control pipelines, transportation of materials, terminals, and refineries built in coastal areas. The federal government could pull out the U.S. Constitution’s supremacy clause to create a regulatory framework that would override California law.

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