EDITOR’S NOTE: This article has been updated to include additional information and quotes from Oceana’s Brady Bradshaw.
ENCINITAS — A bipartisan group of delegates from across San Diego County gathered on Monday, April 15, at Moonlight State Beach to draw a figurative line in the sand in opposition to the Trump administration’s proposal to expand offshore drilling operations along the California coastline.
The event, hosted by marine advocacy organization Oceana, was a significant milestone in the nonprofit’s local conservation efforts after receiving unilateral support from County Supervisors Jim Desmond and Kristin Gaspar, as well as mayors and city council members from Encinitas, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Oceanside, San Marcos and San Juan Capistrano.
“San Diego County leaders have stepped up and made it crystal clear that offshore drilling is unacceptable and they will fight it tooth and nail,” said Oceana representative Brady Bradshaw. “Today made me proud to live in a place where the leaders we elected are so connected to the coastline.”
Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear, who helped the city adopt an offshore drilling resolution on Jan. 24, 2018, said President Donald Trump’s idea of expanding offshore drilling is “absolutely the wrong direction.”
“We need to be reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, not increasing it,” Blakespear said. “Locally, our prosperity is based on having a clean coast. And this would unquestionably create a dirty coast.”
For the past several months, Bradshaw and others have attended city council meetings around the county to encourage local leaders to publicly oppose a Jan. 4 proposal by former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to develop the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program (National OCS Program).
The federal program seeks to significantly expand oil and gas exploration and development by approving 47 lease sales — the largest number of lease sales in U.S. history — including seven new leases in California.
Additional leases would allow drilling access to nearly the entire U.S. outer continental shelf, making “more than 98 percent of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and gas resources in federal offshore areas available to consider for future exploration and development,” according to a department release.
Since Zinke’s announcement, Rep. Mike Levin (D-San Juan Capistrano), who currently serves as a member of the House Natural Resources Committee, has co-sponsored two bills in Congress — West Coast Ocean Protection Act (HR 310) and California Clean Coast Act (HR 279) — that would effectively ban offshore drilling on the West Coast and in California, respectively.
Bradshaw said that many state and federal leaders who were not invited to the press conference remain adamant in their opposition.
“Congressman Mike Levin, for example, is one of the leading members of Congress taking this fight to Washington, D.C. and he has not let up since coming into office,” Bradshaw said.
At the municipal level, several North County cities adopted resolutions opposing offshore drilling, including inland cities Escondido and Vista, and more than 90 cities have passed similar resolutions statewide.
In February, the San Marcos City Council voted 3-2 to indefinitely table its resolution after several council members expressed concerns that adopting it could lead to a “slippery slope” of future requests to pass judgements on partisan and divisive issues.
Despite voting to strike the proposal, San Marcos Mayor Rebecca Jones attended Monday’s press conference to express her opposition to offshore drilling expansion.
“The bipartisan opposition to offshore drilling is overwhelming,” Jones said. “Today, we are standing together to tell the Department of the Interior that our communities oppose further gas and oil drilling off our California coast.”
Desmond, a former mayor of San Marcos, said that increasing oil and gas production along the coastline could disrupt military operations and jeopardize the county’s economy that relies on more than 143,000 active-duty soldiers training, living and working in the area.
“San Diego County is a military and veteran county,” Desmond said. “We want to make sure our military has the ability to train and to preserve the options they have out at sea without the effects of drilling platforms.”
Desmond also encouraged residents to say ‘no’ to offshore drilling expansion.
“Let me rephrase that,” Desmond said. “Hell no.”
The Board of Supervisors sent a letter on March 9, 2018, urging President Donald Trump to “reject any proposal that would allow an expansion of offshore oil drilling in the coastal waters off of the State of California.”
National City and Coronado are the only coastal cities in San Diego County that haven’t passed an offshore drilling resolution.