Protestors gathered outside the California state legislature in Sacramento to protest the Trump administration’s changes to the US offshore oil drilling plan. CALmatters.org photo.

Trump administration expanded its offshore oil drilling plan last year

At the end of 2017, the Trump administration announced the biggest proposed expansion in decades of federal oil and gas leasing by opening nearly all US offshore waters to oil and gas drilling.

The decision sparked immediate protests from environmental groups and many coastal state governments.

On Wednesday, protesters in dolphin, shark and polar bear costumes joined hundreds of people gathered at the California Capitol building just down the street from where officials from the US Interior Department of Ocean Energy Management met with the public to discuss the proposed drilling expansion plan.

A number of environmental groups organized the Sacramento protest, including the Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“Do not pollute our planet for your profit,” Reuters reports California state Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson told the crowd.  “You do not represent us.”

Hannah-Beth Jackson represents California’s 19th Senate District, which encompasses Santa Barbara County and most of Ventura County, an area which has had to clean up oil spills from past drilling.

Miyoko Sakashita, head of the oceans program for the Center for Biological Diversity said “Offshore drilling is dirty and its dangerous”.  She added “it results in oil spills that injure and kill wildlife.”

This week, California said it would block the transportation of petroleum from any new offshore oil and gas rigs.

The State Lands Commission, the body which must approve any new pipelines, said in a letter to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, that it would not permit the movement of oil from new offshore leases to travel through California state land or water.

“I am resolved that not a single drop from Trump’s new oil plan ever makes landfall in California,” Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, chair of the State Lands Commission and a Democratic candidate for governor, said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

The letter from the State Lands Commission also criticized the agency for only holding one public meeting in all of California, a state of about 40 million people.

A spokeswoman for Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke said the development for the process for the five year plan for increased offshore oil drilling is “a very open and public process”.

“Secretary Zinke looks forward to meeting with more Governors and other coastal representatives who want to discuss the draft program,” spokeswoman Heather Swift told Reuters by email.  She added the bureau “has planned 23 public meetings, in our coastal states, to secure feedback directly from citizens.”

The chief environmental officer at the Bureau of Energy Management, William Brown said state input is taken seriously and it has resulted in past drilling plans being scaled back.

Officials from other coastal states, including Florida, North and South Carolina, Delaware and Washington have warned that offshore oil drilling could harm beaches, wildlife and damage the tourism industry.

On Thursday, the California Coastal Commission requested the state be removed from consideration for more offshore drilling.