LOS ANGELES – The Trump administration and lawmakers in California have seemingly been at odds from the day the president took office. Last weekend, their long-running battled moved to the seas.
California Gov. Jerry Brown put his signature on two pieces of legislation over weekend that effectively ban the construction of any new offshore oil and gas pipelines in the state’s waters and thwart a Trump plan to open nearly 1.7 billion acres of coastal waters to drilling.
“Today, California’s message to the Trump administration is simple: Not here, not now,” Brown said at the signing of SB 834 and AB 1775. “We will not let the federal government pillage public lands and destroy our treasured coast.”
The new laws represent California’s latest strike against the Trump administration’s energy agenda and its moves to dismantle Obama-era climate regulations. Together, they continue a trend of state officials here working to combat the White House on everything from land use to immigration.
“California has positioned itself as the center of the Trump resistance,” Jessica Levinson, a clinical law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, told Fox News. “It’s bloody combat.”
Issues like sanctuary cities and other immigration-related matters have been front and center in the California-versus-Trump fight, given the president’s focus on cracking down on illegal immigration and building a border wall.
But there is perhaps no other area where Brown and state Attorney General Xavier Becerra have been more effective at resisting the White House’s agenda than the environment.
While California cannot directly block oil and gas drilling off its coast, the legislation that Brown signed last weekend aims to drive up the operating costs of these operations enough to make the effort unprofitable. The new law does this by blocking state land managers from permitting the construction of new pipelines, piers, wharves or other infrastructure projects necessary to bring oil and gas from offshore drilling sites to land.
In a state where 69 percent of the population opposes drilling, according to a recent poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California, the new laws were praised by many conservation groups.
“We are extremely pleased,” said Kim Delfino, the California program director of Defenders of Wildlife, according to The Mercury News. “The bills are intended to make it difficult to bring any new oil to shore, so it makes any new offshore oil drilling unlikely.
"They put up a pretty significant obstacle. They don’t make it economically feasible for an oil company to do new drilling.”
The legislation, however, also created some strange bedfellows, as it was panned by both oil industry insiders and some environmental groups, who called Brown a hypocrite.
“Today’s announcement is incredibly ironic since Brown has refused every effort by hundreds of community groups to get him to slow the pace of new permits for oil wells,” 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben said in a statement.
California banned offshore drilling in state waters out to three miles back in 1994 and there haven’t been any new platforms built in the last 30 years. But California is the nation’s third-largest oil-producing state, behind Texas and North Dakota, and there are still 32 offshore oil platforms and artificial islands in federal and state waters off the coasts of Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles and Orange Counties.
Brown has himself approved more than 20,000 new drilling permits across the state since 2011 – although fewer than 1,500 of those have been issued in the last two years – and his previous gubernatorial campaigns have received hundreds of thousands of dollars from oil giants like Chevron and Occidental.
Despite the cries of hypocrisy, California – under Brown and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom – is dedicated to fighting back against the White House’s energy agenda.
California already has a waiver under the federal Clean Air Act allowing it to impose tougher emission standards than the U.S. rules, which runs counter to the Trump administration’s move to roll back Obama-era rules focused on curbing greenhouse gas emissions. It is also one of 17 states suing the Trump administration over the rollback.
As he prepared to host a summit of climate change leaders from around the world in San Francisco (starting Wednesday), Brown earlier this week also signed legislation phasing out electricity in the state produced by fossil fuels by 2045
"We want others to do likewise, and if enough people often enough do what is needed we will curb global warming," Brown said during an interview with The Associated Press. "But we're definitely at the beginning of what's going to be a long and difficult and contentious journey."
In filing suit against the Trump administration over emissions standards – and over the federal census, and over separation of migrant families, and over regulations on small business health insurance policies, and in more than three dozen other lawsuits – Brown, Becerra and other Democratic lawmakers in California are taking a page from the playbook of Texas Republicans.
During the Obama administration, Texas filed so many lawsuits against the White House that the state Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is now the governor, joked that “I go to the office in the morning, I sue Barack Obama, and then I go home.”
And with the demographics of California continually shifting in favor of the Democrats and the administration not looking to drastically shift its own agenda, experts say that the Golden State and the White House look to be at odds for the foreseeable future.
“The marriage is broken and we’re in litigation right now,” Levinson said. “Neither side has any motivation to back down.”