Despite its inland location far from the Pacific Ocean, the Escondido City Council voted on Jan. 23 in support of a resolution calling for a ban of offshore oil and gas drilling on the Pacific Ocean.
Passing by a 3-2 majority, with City Councilmen John Masson and Michael Morasco voting no, the resolution is one of dozens which have passed in city halls across Southern California, pushed by the environmental advocacy organization Oceana.
Several resolutions passed in the aftermath of President Donald Trump’s announcement earlier this month that the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management would open up Pacific Ocean offshore plots for drilling.
Brady Bradshaw, Oceana’s campaign organizer for Southern California, said after the meeting that he was pleased with the council’s vote.
“It’s really great to see that the movement opposing offshore drilling is so strong that a city inland from the coast passed a resolution and it makes a lot of sense because this whole county is reliant on a clean coast economy,” Bradshaw said. “I think it’s really amazing that, some of the people were really strong speakers and you could tell that their hearts were in it and they’re very connected to the coastline.”
Escondido is the furthest inland city within San Diego County which has passed a resolution of this sort.
After over half a dozen supporters weighed in support of the bill, Morasco said he opposed it on the grounds that it included natural gas in the mix.
“I’m not in opposition to natural gas drilling. I don’t think that’s as problematic obviously as oil,” said Morasco, who noted that during the summer, he goes to the beach nearly every Monday. “We can have a long discussion about that, but I am a proponent of natural gas and natural gas use.”
Masson, who also dissented, voiced his support of natural gas, as well. But he also said he believed such a resolution existed beyond the purview of the duties of the business of the council.
“I know the state passed two (bills) which prohibit any new pipelines or any new infrastructure along the coast of California,” Masson said. “I feel like this, I guess it just sends a statement, but we have the tools to control and the state to control our destiny with regard to offshore drilling. The ethical piece, I don’t think this comes down to ethics, it just comes down to who has control over what and what’s been done to control that.”
Bradshaw said he believes that Masson was misinformed on the policy status of offshore drilling within California, saying that under state law, offshore drilling could still take place.
“There’s still a proposal for federal drilling and we still expect to see Southern California included in the next iteration of the federal plans,” Bradshaw said. “Right now, anywhere from three miles to 250 miles offshore is still in the proposal … In the state legislation he was referring to, there is still the ability for the existing leases to be modified to support an increased capacity.”
Councilwoman Olga Diaz, part of the three-member liberal majority which voted “yes” for the resolution, said she supported it because even those who live inland often spend time at the beach.
“The protection of the California coast not only impacts our economy, but our health and our environmental stability,” Diaz said. “And so, whatever I can do, even if it is just a statement, even if it’s just a resolution with no authority, no power, no impact, I think it’s important that we take a moral and ethical stand on the fact that we oppose drilling off of the California coast.”
Mayor Paul McNamara said he appreciated Bradshaw and Oceana bringing the measure forward, explaining that Bradshaw began advocating for it during campaign season.
“Look, I understand these are very difficult choices we have as a community,” McNamara said. “We have to make some really hard decisions. But I think we really need to force ourselves. We need to force ourselves to start making the change and if we keep making exceptions and go, ‘Well, we’ll just let this one go in. We’ll just let this one go in,’ we’re going to set ourselves up for long-term failure. So, I think we’re just going to have to bite the bullet and begin the change.”
In the aftermath of the resolution’s passage, Oceana disseminated a note of thanks on Facebook to the Escondido City Council.