When President Trump boldly announced that he was going to expand oil drilling off coastlines across the United States, including California’s, he drew cheers from the oil industry and dread from environmentalists and coastal tourism leaders.
Two years later, his plans for new drilling are hitting a potentially fatal setback: Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats who now control the House of Representatives.
On Thursday, in an obscure, but key, vote, the House voted to adopt several amendments to the Department of Interior budget for next year that ban the agency from spending any money to pursue new offshore oil and gas drilling in federal waters off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
Without funding, the Trump administration cannot hold public hearings, perform the legal work, complete required studies and oversee lease sales to oil companies.
“Congress is saying you can’t have the money to drill here,” said veteran coastal activist Richard Charter of Bodega Bay, a senior fellow with the Ocean Foundation. “I think Trump’s offshore drilling plan is dead in the water for now.”
The move mirrors a tactic that Democrats, led by former congressman Leon Panetta of Monterey, successfully used every year starting in 1982 to block former President Reagan and his Interior Secretary, James Watt, from leasing federal waters off the Big Sur, San Mateo and Sonoma coasts to oil companies for new drilling.
It affects the Interior Department budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, and would need to be renewed a year from now.
The White House and Department of Interior did not respond Monday to a request for comment.
Checkmate? House blocks money to drill for oil off California coast, by Paul Rodgers, Daily Democrat, June 25, 2019.