Which mechanical intrusion into the natural landscape offends more: Rows of offshore drilling platforms or windmills generating electricity in the desert? These opposing visions were given voice at the January 23 meeting of the Escondido City Council.
At that meeting the Escondido City Council voted 3-2 in favor of a resolution “in opposition to federal oil and gas leases in all united states waters, and specifically off the coast of California.”
Voting in favor was Mayor Paul McNamara, Deputy Mayor Consuelo Martinez and councilmember Olga Diaz. Voting no were Mike Morasco and John Masson.
Several members of the public spoke in favor of the resolution.
“I come before you on behalf of the seas,” said Aisha Wallace- Palomares, a high school student at Del Lago Academy. She called offshore drilling, “a catastrophe waiting to happen,” and added, “Expanding offshore drilling is not a practical solution, it’s contributing to an even bigger problem It is not a question of if, but a question of when an oil spill will occur.” She concluded, “From the Santa Barbara oil spill of 1969 to the BP oil spill of 2010, we have seen a pattern of mistakes made and history repeated.”
Brady Bradshaw, campaign organizer for Oceana, an environmental advocacy group, told the council that “California already has the fifth largest economy in the world without coastal oil production.”
“In June 2018, the government proposed to eliminate some already weak safety measures put in place as a response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster,” said Bradshaw. “These safety rollbacks are being offered at the same time the federal government proposes to open nearly all U.S. waters to offshore drilling activities, increasing the risk of another major spill. It’s a recipe for another major disaster,” he said. “The Department of Interior has laid out a very extreme and dangerous plan to expand offshore drilling which currently includes the entire coastline of San Diego County. The federal comment period is there so that cities, who are major stakeholders in this proposal, can have a say and it is imperative that they do.”
Local resident Marian Sedio told the council, “Pass this resolution. It does affect Escondido because we have many people who enjoy the breaches.”
Pam Heatherington, from Environmental Center of San Diego, said that the nation’s “treasures will be polluted and there will be serious environmental impacts from the release of thousands of gallons of polluted water into the oceans” if offshore drilling is permitted.
Yusef Miller, of Clergy for the Coastline, declared that “powers that be are trying to circumvent our ocean saving efforts . . . Just for political game or economic gain.”
Resident Mellisa Brissy said, “Offshore drilling puts wildlife, the ocean and communities at risk.”
John Gruner, of the Surfrider Foundation, commented that “offshore drilling puts our coasts and beaches at jeopardy.”
Councilman Mike Morasco explained his opposition to the resolution in spite of being a lover of the ocean who tries to visit every week. “What I don’t like about this resolution is that includes natural gas,” he said. “I’m not as opposed to that. I am a proponent of natural gas and natural gas use. So because it includes that, I won’t be voting to support this resolution.”
Councilman John Masson agreed. “I also don’t believe natural gas should be part of this. We [the city] also don’t have purview on this.” He said the state had already passed its own laws preventing the coast from being used for oil drilling [but which does not affect the federal government allowing offshore drilling on federal territory.] “I feel this is sort of a statement. We have the tools for us to control our destiny as regards to offshore drilling. I don’t think this comes down to ethics, it comes down to who controls it. We don’t have jurisdiction or power. It puts our name on the list of those who oppose it. I won’t be supporting it.”
Councilwoman Olga Diaz came from the perspective of someone who had served on the California Coast Commission. “The California coast belongs to every resident even if they don’t live on the coast. Whatever I can do, even if it’s just a statement, it’s important we take a moral and ethical stand,” she said. “I need to use less plastics and walk more. Our consciences have been raised over time. Everyone does their own part and eventually, collectively we have an impact. It’s increasing visibility and mindfulness.”
Diaz called offshore drilling “one of the most damaging things to the environment.
It’s important that we take this stand.” She recalled when John Masson said at the December meeting that windmills in the desert were “an eyesore.” “I would really be bothered more by those offshore rigs.” She added that when oil rigs spill, “It’s irreparable. It’s not just sludge to clean up.” She conceded that the resolution was almost “toothless,” but added, “We have set pretty lofty goals for this council.”
McNamara concluded “I understand these are really difficult choices and as a community we need to make hard decisions. But If we keep making exceptions and saying you know …well … we’ll just let this one go in and let this one go in; we’re setting ourselves up for long term failure. We need to bite the bullet and make long-term change.”
Escondido becomes the 70th municipality in California to pass the resolution, along with more than 320 on both coasts.