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Salas opposes budget proposal’s inclusion of oil drilling off Santa Barbara coast

June 2, 2009 - 5:34 pm

Assemblymember Mary Salas, the Democrat from Chula Vista, has signed a letter taking issue with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s inclusion of new oil drilling off the Santa Barbara coast. The letter, sent today to Noreen Evans, who chairs the Budget Conference Committee, is from the Assembly’s Coastal Caucus:

We oppose the Governor’s proposal to usurp the legitimate authority of the State Lands Commission (SLC) and to approve the Tranquillon Ridge lease to Plains Exploration and Production Company (PXP). The Governor seeks approval of this lease through the Budget. The Governor’s proposal implies that when times are tough we ignore long established public policy, set aside our values, and if the state needs money it is acceptable to put our environment at risk. We strongly oppose this approach to development of environmental policy.

In January members of the Assembly Coastal Caucus sent a letter to the SLC regarding our concerns about the proposed lease. Among many of the concerns was the lack of enforceability of the end dates in the proposal, whether the lease met the required exemptions under the Coastal Sanctuary Act, and the precedent it would establish while the Department of the Interior is developing the national offshore oil drilling plan. The PXP proposal would be the first new oil drilling lease in California waters since the passage of the California Sanctuary Act.

When the SLC reviewed the proposed lease, both staff counsel and the Attorney General’s office determined that the agreement with PXP was unenforceable. Because of that critical flaw and other concerns the SLC justifiably determined the PXP proposal was not in the best interest of the state and denied the lease.

To those of us who value the environment, the fact that our state hasn’t issued a new oil lease in California waters for over 40 years is something of which we are very proud. It is our hope that you will not allow this legacy to be tainted by supporting this proposal to circumvent the State Lands Commission’s long standing, public review process.

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