The Trump Administration is taking new steps to expand offshore oil and natural gas drilling in federal waters, including off the coast of Seal Beach.
The push to expand offshore oil drilling comes as Seal Beach is exploring the possibility of retaining an oil and gas consultant to boost city revenue from the energy industry.
The city is still negotiating a contract with a consulting firm, Municipal Petroleum Analysts, according to Finance Director Victoria Beatley. In its proposal, MPA said it was relatively certain new sources of oil would “produce millions of dollars in new city revenue.”
According to Beatley, the city currently earns money from the oil industry three ways: per barrel taxes on oil production, annual operating fees, and franchise pipeline fees.
As a snapshot, Seal Beach’s annual revenue from per barrel royalties has averaged just under $300,000 for the past 10 years.
A draft proposal unveiled last week by Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke would open up areas in the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic oceans to global energy companies for new oil and gas exploration and drilling through a five-year easing program set to begin in 2019.
Despite the push to increase offshore drilling, don’t expect to see any new oil platforms off Seal Beach anytime soon. The draft proposal still needs to undergo review and public comment. It could also face numerous challenges in California including opposition from state regulators and resistance from environmentalists wary of oil spills like the ones that soiled the lSanta Barbara County coastline in 1969 and 2015. There’s also no guarantee the energy industry is willing to invest in new offshore projects as oil prices hover around $60 per barrel.“Nothing galvanizes bi-partisan resistance in California like the threat of more offshore oil drilling,” said Dayna Bochco, chairwoman of the California Coastal Commission in a statement. “We’ve fought similar efforts before, and we will fight them again.”
California Gov. Jerry Brown issued a statement with the governors of Oregon and Washington whose coasts would also be leased for oil and gas exploration under the plan. There was no official statement on the leasing plan from Congressman Dana Rohrabacher who represents the 48th District, which includes Seal Beach. He has supported new drilling off the California coast in the past, including in testimony before the House Committee on Natural Resources in 2012. In those remarks, he argued offshore drilling is less threatening to the environment and safer than bringing in foreign oil on tankers.
The plan would offer 47 leases in U.S. waters on the outer continental shelf. There would be seven lease sales in the Pacific Region which includes two leases in Southern California. There have been no new federal leases for offshore drilling in California since 1984.
There are 43 existing leases off Southern California and 36 of them have producing wells, according to 2016 data from the California State Lands Commission. There are 23 offshore oil platforms in federal waters and four in state waters off California. The four platforms include one off Seal Beach, one in Santa Barbara County and two off Huntington Beach.