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California congressional Democrats, Republicans split over ban on offshore drilling

Congressman John Garamendi pushes for permanent ban on offshore oil drilling off west coast
Congressman John Garamendi pushes for permanent ban on offshore oil drilling off west coast
Kitty Felde/KPCC

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Congressional Democrats from the west coast are calling for a permanent ban on offshore oil drilling off the coast of California, Oregon and Washington. But they’re getting no support from their Republican colleagues.

Fifteen House Democrats from California are co-sponsoring a bill that would permanently ban offshore oil drilling from the Canadian border to Mexico. At the moment, the Republicans are not in support.

Freshman Congressman John Garamendi of Walnut Creek is the bill’s author. The former California lieutenant governor points out that his former boss, Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, recently changed his mind about drilling off California’s coast. Garamendi says years ago, a Republican president – the first President Bush – signed a moratorium on offshore drilling.

"Republicans have been on both sides of this issue over the years," he says. "We would hope that they would come now on the side of supporting the coast."

Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher represents Huntington Beach, where a 1920 oil boom made the town famous. Today, three offshore wells are still pumping oil.

Rohrabacher calls the bill “political exploitation of an unfortunate accident” and says a complete ban on offshore drilling is equivalent to “grounding all 747s after a plane crash.”

Rohrabacher says a ban on offshore drilling may “make people feel good in the short term” – but would lead to more spills from tankers. The biggest spill off the Huntington Beach coast happened 20 years ago when a tanker scraped the ocean floor and leaked half a million gallons of oil.