MENDOCINO Co., 4/28/17 — President Trump may have taken the first step in revoking environmental protections that affect large parts of Mendocino County and the larger North Coast region, today, with the signing of two executive orders.
The orders will potentially rescinding national monument status for areas in the North Coast, and possibly opening up the California coast to off-shore oil drilling. Both executive orders ask Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke for a review, rather than directly ordering any change, so the the specific changes won’t be immediately clear. All three Pacific state governors, including Governor Jerry Brown, have signed a joint statement denouncing the order.
Of the two, the order asking for a review of national monument status, most immediately affects Mendocino. The Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument, which is partially located in Mendocino County and was created by President Obama July 2015, is on the review list.
The other order (Executive Order Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy) directs the Interior Secretary to reconsider a five year ban on off-shore drilling for the Pacific, Atlantic, and Arctic coastline. The order also forbids the expansion of marine sanctuaries. In May, 2015 the Greater Farallones Marine Sanctuary was expanded to include a stretch of the Mendocino County coastline. The five year drilling ban was put in place by Obama in December 2016, after Trump’s election.
On Thursday April 27, in anticipation and in protest to the executive order’s signing, California Governor Jerry Brown issued a joint statement with the Oregon Governor, Kate Brown, and Washington Governor, Jay Inslee, signing as as the Pacific Coast Governors. The statement reads:
“Today’s unilateral action is short-sighted. For good reason there has been no federal expansion of oil and gas drilling along our shared coastline for more than 30 years. We still remember what happened in Santa Barbara in 1969, Port Angeles in 1985, Grays Harbor in 1988 and Coos Bay in 1999. We remember the oil soaked beaches and wildlife and the devastating economic impacts to local communities and the fishing industry. Now is not the time to turn back the clock. We cannot return to the days where the federal government put the interests of big oil above our communities and treasured coastline.”
The Governor’s Office also issued the following statement on Thursday along with the joint message from the Pacific Coast Governors:
Last December, Governor Brown called on the federal government to use its authority under Section 12(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to permanently withdraw federal waters off the coast of California from new offshore oil and gas leasing and guarantee that future oil and gas drilling in these waters is prohibited. The Governor also launched a new partnership of jurisdictions around the world committed to protecting coastal communities and economies from the threat of rising ocean acidity.
National monuments currently preserved under the National Antiquities Act of 1906 are the focus of the first executive order signed today, which aims to reduce or eliminate designated monuments over 100,000 acres and potentially open up such areas to oil drilling. Previous presidents including Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama all used the National Antiquities Act to designate protected regions across the country. Eight of the monuments targeted by the executive order are located in California.
The second executive order, focused on eliminating drilling restrictions and reducing marine sanctuary protections, may take a while to implement and may not impact regions of the coastline where oil is not present. (You can watch a brief video of the signing here.) California has a long history of drilling for oil off the coastline, which has periodically resulted in disastrous spills such as the Santa Barbara spill in 1969, which was the largest oil spill in United States waters at the time.