Opinion

Trump forcibly expands oil and gas drilling in California. Will Newsom fight back?

President Donald Trump’s attempts to forcibly expand oil and gas drilling in California have taken his political beef with our state to a toxic new low.

“The Trump administration has finalized its plans to open hundreds of thousands of acres of federal land in Central California to oil and gas leasing, paving the way for more fracking to soon begin in the state,” reports McClatchy DC’s Emily Cadei.

The majority of California’s elected leaders oppose Trump’s plans. A majority of Californians also believes the state should ban the dangerous practice called “fracking,” which injects poisonous, cancer-causing chemicals deep into the ground.

Yet in spite of strong opposition – or, perhaps, because of it – Trump is forcing the issue.

This president makes no secret of his disdain for California. He attacks the Golden State every chance he gets. Whether he’s mocking homelessness or lying about the state’s economic strength, he’s made California a constant target of his presidential bullying.

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But this latest scheme goes beyond mere taunts and tweets. Trump’s threat to forcibly expand drilling is an attack on our health, air, water and natural environment. Some fear that the administration’s forthcoming plans to impose more drilling in the Sierra Nevada may even put Yosemite National Park and Sequoia National Park at risk.

California’s leaders must do everything in their power to defeat Trump’s latest attack in court. They should also devise creative and effective ways to make oil and gas companies think twice about going along with this scheme.

If fossil fuel companies think they can violate California with impunity just because Trump says so, they must learn otherwise.

“Californians need to rise up in demanding that we don’t frack and drill and spoil some of our most beautiful national parks and protected lands,” said Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance. “We have to once again lead the fight against the Trump administration on this travesty.”

Muratsuchi authored Assembly Bill 342, which currently sits on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk. The bill is designed to thwart Trump’s efforts to expand fossil fuel extraction on protected public lands. It would bar California agencies from entering into leases that allow the building of oil and gas infrastructure on state lands. This would make it harder to support new fossil fuel extraction on certain public lands controlled by the federal government.

“Any new oil or gas projects approved in federally protected areas would be prohibited from having their pipelines or other essential infrastructure cross state lands,” according to a story in the Los Angeles Times.

It’s an imperfect and partial solution – but it’s exactly the kind of thinking California needs. AB 342 could provide critical protection for San Luis Obispo County’s Carrizo Plains National Monument, “an area known for its spectacular wildflower blooms and potentially large reserves of oil and gas,” according to the Times.

Gov. Newsom should sign it – for starters. State leaders can’t sit idly by while the fossil fuel industry pillages California with Trump’s permission. It’s time for some forceful pushback.

Though Gov. Newsom’s election initially excited environmentalists, they have waited in vain for the bold action that’s urgently needed to counter the fossil fuel industry’s aggressive Trumpian strategy.

“We are anxious,” said Kathryn Phillips of Sierra Club California. “It’s time for the [Newsom] administration to provide some guidance … what are the lists of actions that this administration is going to take?”

One possible move: Newsom could demand a 2,500-foot safety buffer zone between any new drilling operation on state-regulated land and the places where humans live, work or play. He could also expedite California’s eventual phaseout of oil and gas development.

The fossil fuel lobby hates these ideas. But if oil and gas companies think they can get away with acting against California’s wishes, perhaps it’s time for California’s leaders to step up and return the favor.

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