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This past April, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that tasked Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke with the creation of a new five-year Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program to expand offshore oil and gas drilling. While the administration claims this step will improve America’s energy independent, it actually gives oil companies more control over the waters that we depend on for healthy coastal economies and vital military operations.

In January, Imperial Beach joined a growing wave of opposition to offshore oil drilling, and today more than 40 California municipalities have submitted formal opposition to Zinke’s radical plan to expand offshore drilling.

Voice of San Diego Commentary

San Diego County is among those municipalities and has more reason than most for doing this. Our naval operations are critical to national security. Zinke’s inclusion of these military areas is baffling, considering he was once in the Navy himself and should understand that offshore drilling would hinder training exercises and other operations.

Equally concerning is Rep. Duncan Hunter’s silence on the issue. As a former Marine, Hunter should be jumping out of his seat to prevent the offshore oil industry’s interference with our military defense operations. Instead, he has said nothing.

For our military to remain one of the strongest forces in the world, we need to protect the areas where military operations and training activity take place. Any offshore structures that are built in those areas would hinder our military’s ability to properly prepare and train for attacks on our country.

Then there are the impacts of an oil spill. In 2015, the most recent major oil spill happened in Santa Barbara, releasing 101,000 gallons of oil and costing $92 million to clean up. In the event of another major oil spill, our military would be allocating resources to the cleanup where they could be otherwise allocated for much better uses. Given that the Trump Administration’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement is actively working to eliminate important safeguards put in place to protect oil rig workers and the surrounding environment from blowouts, we can count on drilling equating to spilling.

The Pentagon has openly spoken against drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico due to the disruption to training exercises. Similarly, the DOD released a compatibility report in 2010 — the most recent report that included a DOD assessment of Pacific waters — which identified locations with potential conflicts between DOD training/testing activities and offshore oil and gas development. The report classified areas off California as incompatible with oil and gas activities and infrastructure, and gives examples of activities that directly conflict with such development.

In addition, the United States Navy, Air Force, and even the National Aeronautics and Space Administration have all weighed in, expressing major concerns regarding the potential impacts that offshore oil and gas development could have to their operations, activities, and to the country’s national security.

If Hunter cares about our Naval operations and the security of our nation, he will stop sitting on his hands and take action by calling up his friend, Zinke, and demand that California’s coast is taken off the table for offshore oil drilling.

Mark West is a retired Naval officer and Imperial Beach City Councilman. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.

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