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By Daniel Ritz and Eric Heinz 

Fiscal Committees in State Senate and Assembly Will Determine Fates of SB 834 and AB 1775.

Two bills seeking to prevent new offshore drilling activities off the California coast are currently being reviewed by the Appropriations Committees in both houses; with each bill making it out of its respective committee of the State Senate and Assembly.

Senate Bill 834 (SB 834) and Assembly Bill 1775 (AB 1775) both challenge federal efforts to pursue new offshore drilling opportunities off the California coast. Both bills, if approved by state legislators and signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, would continue California’s efforts to challenge President Donald Trump’s environmental policies.

The city of Dana Point is listed as an official supporter of both bills.

The Assembly’s Natural Resources Committee approved SB 834 by a 7-3 vote on June 25, allowing it to move forward to the Appropriations Committee one day later. SB 834 made it out of the State Senate by a 24-8 vote (7 no-shows) on May 30.

AB 1775, meanwhile, made it out of the State Senate’s Natural Resources and Water Committee on June 26 (7-2 vote), setting it up to be in the upper house’s Appropriations Committee. Assembly members approved this proposal on May 30; the vote was 45-24 with nine no-shows.

Both bills, which mirror each other, propose to prohibit oil and gas exploration on state lands associated with Outer Continental Shelf leases. State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, and Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance, introduced their respective bills in response to Trump’s plan to expand offshore oil and gas drilling opportunities in federal waters.

Legislators passed the California Coastal Sanctuary Act in 1994; the act prohibited (with exceptions) new oil and gas leases in state coastal waters.

Photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Trump Administration announced in January it would plan to lift a moratorium on oil and gas exploration set by his predecessor, President Barack Obama. Trump’s policy direction, according to the most recent legislative analysis of SB 834, would open up 90 percent of federal waters to new drilling leases.

“California’s economy thrives because of our environmental protections,” Jackson said in the analysis of the bill. “The Trump Administration’s reckless decision to open these waters to further oil development represents a step backward into the outdated, dirty and destructive energy policies of the past. It’s more important than ever that we send a strong statement that California will not be open for drilling along our coast, which could devastate our multi-trillion-dollar coastal economy, our coastal waters and marine life,”

A recent poll cited by legislative analysts showed 69 percent of Californians “opposed drilling off the California Coast;” the poll was conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California.

Western States Petroleum Association, or WSPA, has been listed as being in opposition to AB 1775. The association stated the bill actually takes authority away from the State Lands Commission on tidelands leases; the commission already has the power to deny oil and gas leases on state lands under its jurisdiction, according to WSPA’s stated position.

Other organizations opposed to AB 1775 include California Chamber of Commerce, Orange County Business Council, Oxnard Chamber of Commerce, San Gabriel Valley Economic Partnership and Wilmington Chamber of Commerce. WSPA is the only listed opposition on the Assembly’s Natural Resources Committee analysis of SB 834.

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