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Baker introduces resolution urging feds to protect California coast from oil drilling

Local assemblywoman cites negative impacts on environment, state economy

President Donald Trump's administration has received a range of opposition to its proposal this month to open federal waters, including those near California, to new offshore oil drilling operations.

Count local Assemblywoman Catharine Baker among the critics on both sides of the political aisle.

Baker, a second-term Republican from the Tri-Valley, announced Friday that she introduced a resolution urging the federal government not to expand offshore drilling near California, citing environmental risks and negative economic impacts to the California coast and tourism industry.

"Local voices matter. Ours have spoken loud and clear on the subject of new offshore drilling for decades," said Baker, whose district includes Pleasanton. "California's coastline is too important to our state's environment, character and economy. I'm encouraged that Florida got an exemption from this policy, and California should receive the same treatment."

The Trump administration announced last week its plan to expand offshore drilling in the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic oceans. The proposal has led to objections by some residents and elected leaders -- Republican and Democrat -- from a variety of coastal states, as reported by the Associated Press and other national news organizations.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke changed course when it came to Florida earlier this week, saying drilling would not be allowed off the Sunshine State coast following backlash from key leaders, including Republican Gov. Rick Scott, citing local opposition and the importance of coastal tourism on the Florida economy.

Baker made similar arguments in her upcoming resolution urging no new oil drilling off California's coast.

Ocean-dependent tourism contributes more than $17 billion annually to California's economy and provides more than 350,000 jobs, Baker said, adding that the state's coastal economy creates some $1.7 trillion in gross domestic product.

She also cited the economic and food-sourcing benefits of California's fishing industry and the environmental value of the state's coastal ecosystem that "is home to a diverse variety of marine mammals, seabirds, sea turtles, marine fishes and invertebrates, including numerous threatened and endangered species."

Baker said the state has not issued a new drilling lease in state waters for 50 years while repeatedly urging the federal government to ban new offshore oil development. The California Coastal Sanctuary Act of 1994, which passed with bipartisan support, prohibits any new leases for the extraction of oil or gas in state waters, she added.

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