Is This The End of the Offshore Drilling Boomlet?

The Louisiana oil spill has become an environmental catastrophe, and a national scandal. It is now project to be the worst oil spill in US history, eclipsing even the notorious Exxon Valdez spill of 1989 and the Santa Barbara oil spill of 1969. The environmental and economic consequences are devastating to the entire Gulf Coast, still recovering nearly 5 years after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the area.

It is also bringing a halt to calls for increased offshore oil drilling. President Obama has announced a halt to offshore drilling plans until a thorough review can be conducted.

Here in California, advocates of the deal with PXP in support of the Tranquillon Ridge project find themselves on the wrong side of current events. Day after day brings news that suggests support any new offshore drilling plan here in California isn’t a good idea. Susan Jordan, running to replace her husband Pedro Nava in the Assembly from the 35th District, put out a press release today with some damning information about PXP and BP’s lobbying against federal regulations:

At the same time Texas-based oil company Plains Exploration & Production (PXP) was trying to woo Santa Barbara environmentalists into supporting its plans to drill the first new offshore oil lease in California state waters in more than 40 years, the company was trying to convince the federal government not to implement stronger protections for drilling rigs that might have prevented the devastating oil spill that occurred 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana.

Jordan’s campaign released the letters in question from PXP and BP.

For their part, supporters of the PXP/Tranquillon Ridge deal argued the Louisiana spill bolstered their view that the deal would actually help protect the California coastline:

Santa Barbara opponents of offshore oil, who have rallied behind a proposal that would allow new wells now in exchange for a commitment to end drilling in 14 years, said the Louisiana spill underscores the importance of establishing a definite end date for drilling off their coast.

“The spill has reinforced the importance of our plan that will shut down four platforms,” said Linda Krop, chief counsel for the Santa Barbara-based Environmental Defense Center. “If they’re allowed to continue indefinitely, the risk of spills would continue indefinitely.”

I’ve always understood that logic, and it’s important to note that groups like EDC shouldn’t be lumped into the same “drill baby drill” crowd as people like Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh. But at the same time, their support for the Tranquillon Ridge plan will be used by proponents of a wider opening of the California coast to drilling.

If others come to state and local governments with promises of money to help stressed budgets and a pledge to shut down operations after a specific period of time, they will be able to say “even Santa Barbara environmentalists supported this kind of drilling.” And while EDC and others might not support future projects, they’ll have set a precedent that will quickly spread beyond their control.

Given the similarities between the 1969 Santa Barbara spill and the 2010 Louisiana spill, it seems to me that the Tranquillon Ridge project is too much of a risk to California’s environment and economy to support. The right move is to hold a firm line against ANY new drilling off of California’s coast. The Louisiana spill is a reminder that the 41-year moratorium must remain in place, and drilling not be expanded in any form.

7 thoughts on “Is This The End of the Offshore Drilling Boomlet?”

  1. Business doesn’t like them. They fight them bitterly. And, in the U.S., they often win. But the victory often costs them. More than just the extravagant lobbying fees.

    You see, other countries like Brazil, have requirements for shut-off valves for deep-water drilling rigs. We do not because industry fought the proposal. Just as industry fought FDA regulations to track produce. But then a drill rig blows up and the flow can’t be shut off. Or there’s a salmonella outbreak and nobody can tell if it’s U.S. tomatoes or Mexican peppers. And complex financial deals go sour. Then these industries lose money. Sometimes a lot of money.

    BP is going to pay far more for this cleanup than they would have paid to install shut-off valves. Pulling tomatoes off of store shelves cost millions more than the tracking system would have. And some banks who fought regulations are now out of business.

    So the next time you hear some industry group whine about how much regulations are going to cost them, remember that they never consider long-term costs like these. So we must.

    It’s really that simple.

  2.  That BP was not prepared for any type of large scale oil spill. This is far from the end of this, remember Exxon is still dragging out payment for its roll in the Valdez spill and the payment(s) keep getting reduced…

    Where is the so-called Environmentalist Outrage?

    They should be running full page ads at least if not appearing on every idiot box channel they can find.

    Thus far there has been a tepid response.


  3. Thank you, Robert, for this commentary.

    The PXP deal, even if enforceable (State Lands, AG’s office said no) would’ve taken rigs out of commission that are nearing the end of their useful life, anyway. Starting a new slant drilling project would not only potentially extend the life of this platform but set a strong precedent for new drilling projects elsewhere.

    We must remember that projects in state waters are only 3 miles offshore. Compare this to the horrible devastation in the Gulf which is 50 miles offshore. Now is not the time to end the 40-year ban on new drilling in state waters with the PXP deal.

    Susan Jordan bravely stood her ground on this issue despite pushback from the EDC, and got a primary opponent for her trouble. Das Williams has told many media sources he not only supports this deal, he entered the race because of it.

    I am a proud supporter of Susan Jordan and am helping her with her campaign.  

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