Representatives Mike Thompson (CA-1) and Lynn Woolsey (CA-6) today introduced an amendment to ban drilling on of California's North Coast. H.R. 3408, the Protecting Investment in Oil Shale the Next Generation of Environmental, Energy, and Resource Security Act would automatically open the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, Alaska's Bristol Bay, Southern California, and the Virginia coast for oil and gas leasing. The bill could also potentially open up California's North Coast to drilling -- even if the state objects to offshore drilling in the region.
"Oil drilling is an important component of our energy solution, but we should only drill where it's appropriate -- and that means no drilling off the North Coast," said Thompson. "The North Coast is one of the most productive ecosystems in the world, supporting salmon, Dungeness crab, rockfish, sole, and urchin populations. It is one of four major upwellings in all the world's oceans, allowing nutrient-rich water to rise supporting an abundance of marine life.
Thompson continued, "If an oil spill were to occur in this area, not only would the economic damage to businesses and tourism be staggering, the rocky shores and rough seas would make a cleanup impossible. This amendment should be passed, and Congress must affirm that although oil is a part of our energy solution, we will not be opening up the North Coast for drilling."
"The waters off California's North Coast are some of the most abundant and exquisitely beautiful on the face of the earth," said Woolsey. "Our commercial fishing industry depends on this thriving marine ecosystem, as do our research scientists. They are critical to our local economy, supporting thousands and thousands of tourism-related jobs. Who would visit the North Coast to look at an oil derrick? We must block any attempt to open these waters to drilling."
In a decision to "trust but verify," Thompson and Woolsey introduced an amendment clarifying that the North Coast may not be opened for drilling under H.R. 3408. Passing the amendment will affirm that there would not be North Coast drilling in the future.
According to a 2009 Energy Information Administration report, opening up waters that are currently closed to drilling would only yield an enough oil to reduce gas prices by no more than 3 cents a gallon -- in 2030.
In Northern California, the potential economic impact of the region's oil supply is even smaller: if all the recoverable reserves of Northern California's Outer Continental Shelf were tapped, they would provide enough oil to fuel the U.S. for only 100 days.
Thompson and Woolsey have been a longtime opponent of efforts to open drilling off the coast of Northern California. In May he introduced a similar amendment to H.R. 231, the Reversing President Obama's Offshore Moratorium Act that would affirm the North Coast would not be opened to drilling. In January, he reintroduced legislation to ban drilling off the coast of Del Norte, Humboldt, and Mendocino Counties.
Woolsey is the author H.R. 192, co-sponsored by Thompson and 53 others and widely supported in the local community, which would permanently protect the Sonoma Coast from oil and gas exploration by more than doubling the size of the Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries.