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Coast shudders at drilling talk

REGION — Up and down coastal North County, elected officials are considering what steps to take in response to the Trump administration’s plans to open up areas in the Pacific Ocean to new offshore oil drilling and exploration. 

Some cities have already denounced the plans and are considering or have adopted resolutions to that effect, while other cities have not taken any action.

Department Secretary Ryan Zinke announced Jan. 4 that it would make over 90 percent of the total Outer Continental Shelf acreage available to consider for future exploration and development, a dramatic departure from longstanding policy that kept almost all of the acreage off limits. 

“Responsibly developing our energy resources on the Outer Continental Shelf in a safe and well-regulated way is important to our economy and energy security, and it provides billions of dollars to fund the conservation of our coastlines, public lands and parks,” Zinke said. “Today’s announcement lays out the options that are on the table and starts a lengthy and robust public comment period. Just like with mining, not all areas are appropriate for offshore drilling, and we will take that into consideration in the coming weeks. The important thing is we strike the right balance to protect our coasts and people while still powering America and achieving American Energy Dominance.”

Zinke’s announcement has been roundly criticized by environmental groups and elected officials across the spectrum, which called the announcement “irresponsible.” 

“Offshore drilling is a dirty and destructive business that will harm our ocean and coastal communities,” The Surfrider Foundation’s San Diego chapter said in a news release. “We are witnessing the largest assault on our ocean in American history.”

The last offshore drilling lease sale off of California was in 1984. 

Zinke has since removed Florida from consideration, which set off another round of criticism from officials who said that California was being punished because of its political stance against the Trump administration. But elected officials here have urged elected leaders to write to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which is taking comment on the proposal, urging it to remove California from consideration.

“A resolution to disapprove of new offshore drilling leases will send a clear, united message to the Trump administration that Californians value the well-being of our coastal community environments and expect relentless protection,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein wrote in a letter to all California boards of supervisors. “As Californians, we must stand together to ensure that our coast is not subject to new offshore oil and gas drilling projects.”

Solana Beach, Del Mar and Encinitas officials all said that they will be taking up resolutions or writing letters to federal legislators urging that California’s coastline be removed from consideration by the Department of the Interior.

Del Mar Mayor Dwight Worden said that in October 2017 the city sent a letter to the region’s congressional delegation after President Donald Trump in April 2017 signed the executive order that set the state for the Interior Department’s announcement. 

“We are writing to urge you to join us in opposing any increase in oil or gas drilling off the coast of California,” the letter stated. “President Trump’s Executive Order signed on April 28, 2017 may have created an opening for more oil and gas drilling off the coast of California. Join us in opposing increased oil and gas drilling off the coast of California. California’s iconic coastal and marine waters are one of our state’s most precious resources. Hundreds of millions of California residents and visitors enjoy the state’s ocean and coast for recreation, exploration, and relaxation. Tourism and recreation comprise the largest sector of the state’s $44.8 billion ocean economy.”

Worden said the city may revisit the topic again now that the Interior Department has moved the plan forward.

Solana Beach Mayor Ginger Marshall and Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear echoed Worden’s sentiments. 

In the region’s two largest coastal cities, however, Oceanside and Carlsbad, officials have yet to state a position on the issue. 

Oceanside Deputy Mayor Chuck Lowery said that his office would send letters out on his behalf to congressional delegates condemning the decision, but the City Council — which is currently short one member after the resignation of Mayor Jim Wood — had not placed anything on the agenda for discussion.

Carlsbad spokeswoman Kristina Ray said that Carlsbad, too, had yet to consider a resolution or letter on the topic.