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California governor seeks permanent ban on offshore drilling

CORONADO, Calif. – California Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday asked President Barack Obama to permanently ban new offshore oil and gas drilling in the state before he leaves office.

If Obama agrees, the edict would set up a potential showdown with the incoming administration of Donald Trump. Brown said he didn’t know if Trump would have authority to overturn a permanent prohibition.

“California is blessed with hundreds of miles of spectacular coastline; home to scenic state parks, beautiful beaches, abundant wildlife and thriving communities,” Brown wrote the president. “Clearly, large new oil and gas reserves would be inconsistent with our overriding imperative to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and combat the devastating impacts of climate change.”

Working to lock in environmental protections as the clock runs out on his presidency, Obama last month released a plan for offshore oil drilling in federal waters that bans until 2022 any new drilling off the coasts of California, Oregon or Washington. The White House declined to comment on Brown’s request to make the ban permanent.

Brown said he would invite fellow Democratic governors of Oregon and Washington to join the effort, which he announced at an event to launch a new organization to protect oceans. Oregon and Washington also joined the International Alliance to Combat Ocean Acidification.

Many Democrats in California’s congressional delegation, including Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, have urged Obama to use executive authority to permanently block oil and gas leasing on the West Coast. In 2014, Brown asked for a ban on Pacific offshore drilling through 2022, but climate activists have pushed him to ask for a permanent ban.

Skyli McAfee, national oceans director for the environmental advocacy group The Nature Conservancy, said she was “extremely pleased at how seriously (Brown) is taking the issue and his reliance on the academic community.”

Brown later joined the Western Governors Association’s winter meeting, where he warned against expectations of major policy changes happening quickly under Trump. He said Congress and the judiciary serve as checks on the president and that differences tend to narrow over time.

“If the world ends, we’re in deep trouble but that hasn’t happened yet,” Brown said in response to a question about the consequences of overturning Obamacare.


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