What a Trump presidency mean for off-shore drilling and fracking in California?

Written by

Donald Trump’s transition website calls for opening federal lands (both on- and offshore) to energy exploration as part of a drive to make the country energy independent. But, California has prided itself as being a trailblazer when it comes to protecting the environment and helping develop sources of clean energy. But could that change under Donald Trump? And what does the incoming administration mean for public lands here in the Golden State? And what about new oil drilling off the California coast?

California Advocacy Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, Ann Notthoff says our coastlines are most likely protected, for now.

KCRW talked to Notthoff about what she expects to see in California energy policy under the new administration.

Anne Notthoff: We’ve seen those proposals for decades, starting most recently with the Carter Administration, through the Reagan and Bush Administrations. And through all of those administrations there has been consistent bi-partisan opposition in California to additional oil-drilling off the California coast. Where things stand right now, in terms of what is happening with the federal leasing program off the coast of California, is the department of interior is just about to finalize the next five year program for off shore oil and gas development off the coast of the entire United States. Right now California is not in that program. And that’s the five year program that covers the period of time from 2017 to 2022. That’ll be finalized and it would be difficult to change that. You’d certainly have to go through a very lengthy commenting period and proposals and I think those five year programs have been honored in the past.

KCRW: And so would this five year program be finalized before President Obama leaves office?

AN: Yes. Many point to the 1969 oil spill off the Santa Barbara coast as one of the impetuses for the modern environmental movement and ever since then there’s been very broad and bi-partisan opposition to additional off shore gas drilling off the California coast.

KCRW: Do you think that opposition is still strong even though we have a Republican controlled house in Senate?

AN: I do. I think that the oil and gas resources off the California coast have been assessed time and again as not that good quality, not abundant enough to make a difference. Also California has done so much more to promote clean energy and our solar and wind markets are healthy now and are producing energy without greenhouse gases and that’s even put California in a better place to say that we don’t need additional oil and gas drilling off the California coast.

KCRW: President-elect Trump has also said that he support hydraulic fracturing or fracking and he wants to make it easier for energy companies to do that. Could any changes in that particular area bring significant changes in California?

AN: Fracking is something that we need to be on the lookout for. Certainly, there’ve been proposals to frack in the Los Padres National Forest area. Currently, there are over 200,000 acres of federal lands, both Bureau of Land Management and national forest lands, that are under current leases in California. My understanding is that only about 8,000 of those acres are now under production so there could be proposals from a federal government to increase the amount of production on even just already leased lands let alone try to open up more acres to leasing.

KCRW: The Federal Bureau of Land Management manages millions of acres of land in California. One estimate I saw said about 15 percent of the state’s entire land area. Do you think we could see a move to open up some of that land to more mining, logging, that kind of thing.

AN: Yes, of course all of the federal lands are currently being managed pursuant to management plans and there’ve been lengthy public processes about identifying areas that are suitable for resource extraction or not. So, to change any of those plans would require a lengthy process also with an opportunity for extensive public input and comment and also providing opportunities for legal challenge if the federal government tried to overstep.

(Photo: Melina Taylor )