Greenies Approve California Offshore Drilling Plan

Prominent Californians including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are adamantly opposed to offshore drilling in all its forms. Unless, apparently they have some skin in the game…

From the Wall Street Journal: Environmentalists Say Yes to Offshore Drilling

After the [disastrous 1969 oil] spill, Santa Barbara residents formed an environmental group called GOO! (Get Oil Out!), one of the first community groups to oppose offshore oil drilling. Thirty-nine years later, GOO! is still around. But this April the group did something astonishing. It publicly supported an oil company’s proposal to drill off the coast of Santa Barbara.

Houston-based Plains Exploration and Production Company proposed drilling 22 [to 30] wells from a platform 4.7 miles from land. It made numerous concessions to the local environmental groups that would curtail drilling in about a decade — and in the end even the adamantly “no-drilling” crowd agreed that the deal was beneficial for everyone. The Environmental Defense Center, a nonprofit environmental law firm, endorsed the plan. Abe Powell, president of GOO!, told the Los Angeles Times it was “good for the community.” Terry Leftgoff, a former GOO! executive director, wrote in the Santa Barbara Independent the deal was “a brilliant proposal that finally gives the public something back: the certain removal of four offshore oil platforms, the decommissioning of a notorious industrial plant, and the reversion of rural land subjugated into oil development back into the public trust as parkland.”

When an environmental group formed for the sole purpose of opposing offshore oil drilling warmly embraces a plan to drill off its own coast, you know something important has changed in our culture: Americans have recognized that offshore oil drilling is largely safe. [emphasis added] From the website of The Trust for Public Land:

The new project is called Tranquillon Ridge, and it’s toward the inland side of Platform Irene. They were basically drilling up to the state tideland boundary, but they want to go further, into state waters. Therefore, they need this new lease.

Others have tried this before. What’s different this time is that Plains went to the environmental groups and said, “What do you want from us? What would it take for us to get your support?” First, everybody shook their heads and said, “Are you kidding? No way. It’ll never happen.” Then, they started seeing a potential opportunity to negotiate with PXP for multiple benefits, including a finite timeline for this operation and any other operations of PXP in the Santa Barbara Channel. No law—state, federal, or otherwise—mandates that. When you are drilling for oil, you can drill until you’re done.

Secondly, PXP has 3,700 acres in Lompoc. They had an 800-acre, 1,100-home proposal for a new subdivision on the land that they own there. An additional benefit that they agreed on was to pull that application to build the subdivision.

Number three, they agreed to donate all of their landholdings over a period of years, which includes the 3,700 acres in Lompoc, contiguous to the existing Burton Mesa Preserve, and *three major parcels along the Gaviota Coast, totaling almost 200 acres. *

So, to make this deal, Plains agreed to:

  1. Cease oil operations and remove its platforms by 2022.
  2. Withdraw its subdivision application for the 3,700 acre tract.
  3. Donate the 3,700 acres, plus 200 seashore acres, over the next several years.
  4. Maintain carbon neutrality.

Plains gets a shot at 150 to 200 million barrels of crude oil.

To understand this deal, we must, as Rush Limbaugh implores us, follow the money. California, the County of Santa Barbara and GOO have nothing at all to gain from encouraging OCS development. But Tranquillon Ridge is not in the OCS: it’s in California State Waters (less than 3 miles offshore), but the wells are to be drilled from Platform Irene, which is in Federal waters. The State and the County will get all of the royalties, and GOO gets the land and a fixed date for platform removal (we’ll see about that when the time comes, and the revenues get shut off). Cool, huh?