New map reveals massive number of offshore oil wells in California waters

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On January 4, 2018, California Governor Jerry Brown joined Oregon Governor Kate Brown and Washington Governor Jay Inslee in condemning President Donald Trump’s plan to expand oil and gas drilling in federal waters as “reckless” and “short-sighted.”

Ironically, as the three Governors condemned Trump’s offshore drilling proposal it turns out that California regulators under Jerry Brown have overseen a massive expansion of new offshore drilling in state waters in recent years — while a new map website,, reveals that Governor Jerry Brown controls four times as many offshore wells in state waters than Trump controls in federal waters.

In a statement, the three governors said, “This political decision to open the magnificent and beautiful Pacific Coast waters to oil and gas drilling flies in the face of decades of strong opposition on the part of Oregon, Washington and California – from Republicans and Democrats alike. They’ve chosen to forget the utter devastation of past offshore oil spills to wildlife and to the fishing, recreation and tourism industries in our states. They’ve chosen to ignore the science that tells us our climate is changing and we must reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. But we won’t forget history or ignore science. For more than 30 years, our shared coastline has been protected from further federal drilling and we’ll do whatever it takes to stop this reckless, short-sighted action.”

Brown also issued a personal statement blasting Trump, pledging “resistance” to Trump’s plan to expand offshore oil drilling.

“Donald Trump has absolutely chosen the wrong course. He’s wrong on the facts. America’s economy is boosted by following the Paris Agreement. He’s wrong on the science. Totally wrong. California will resist this misguided and insane course of action. Trump is AWOL but California is on the field, ready for battle,” Brown claimed.

However, the Governor’s Office press release and most media neglected to mention that Brown’s oil and gas regulators, at the same time that Brown was portraying himself as an “opponent” of offshore drilling, approved 238 new offshore oil wells in state waters under existing leases off Los Angeles and Ventura counties from 2012 to 2016. That’s increase of 17 percent, according to data released in a report issued by Fractracker Alliance in February 2017. To read the complete report, go to:…(

Then on June 20, Consumer Watchdog launched a web site that allows you to compare California offshore wells under the control of Governor Jerry Brown and President Donald Trump. The numbers are stunning.

“Brown has called Trump’s federal offshore oil drilling short-sighed and reckless, but the site —— shows Brown controls four times more oil wells in state waters than those Trump controls in federal waters,” according to Liza Tucker, consumer advocate for Consumer Watchdog.

Offshore wells in state waters controlled by the Brown Administration total 5460, versus 1429 offshore wells in federal waters controlled by the Trump administration. Federal waters are those three nautical miles or more off California’s coast.

Of the state wells, 2028 are active; 1336 are production wells, while the rest are support wells like wastewater disposal and water flood/steam flood/observation, etc, according to Kyle Ferrar of the Fractracker Alliance. The federal offshore wells include 702 wells listed as active.

Consumer Watchdog’s site allows you to click on thousands of head shots of Brown or Trump over oil derricks and see the latitude and longitude of the respective state or federal well and which oil company owns it.  The data was provided by FracTracker Alliance.

“The map proves that when it comes to offshore oil drilling Governor Brown wins the ‘Drill, Baby Drill’ prize, not Donald Trump,”  said Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog.   “Governor Brown has four times more oil derricks in his hands than President Trump does.  Jerry Brown could end offshore drilling in California tomorrow with an executive order, but he has been all talk and no walk on protecting our coast from oil drilling.”

800 public interest groups from California and around the world, including Consumer Watchdog and the FracTracker Alliance, in April kicked off a campaign urging Governor Brown to stop the build-out of dirty fossil fuel infrastructure, keep oil and gas in the ground, and take immediate action to protect those most vulnerable to climate change as Brown gets ready for the global climate action summit that he will host September 12-14, 2018, in San Francisco. Read their letter to Brown and about the campaign at

California has prohibited new offshore leases since 1984, but has allowed the expansion of oil drilling in existing leases. Brown has the power as Governor to close down all existing leases and wells through executive action, but he has instead furthered Big Oil’s agenda by presiding over the expansion of offshore drilling in state waters.

This failure of the state’s regulators to comprehensively protect the ocean from offshore drilling is exposed by the expansion of offshore drilling in Southern California waters that began in January 2012 after a network of so-called “marine protected areas” in Southern California waters was created under the helm of a Big Oil lobbyist.

Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), chaired the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create “marine protected areas” in Southern California from 2009 to 2012. Reheis-Boyd also served on the task forces for the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast from 2004 to 2012.

State officials and MLPA Initiative advocates repeatedly touted the process led by a Big Oil lobbyist as “open, transparent and inclusive” when it was anything but. The “Yosemites of the Seas” created under an ocean industrialist’s helm failed to protect the ocean from offshore drilling, fracking, military testing, pollution and all human impacts on the ocean other than sustainable fishing and gathering.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s plan for nationwide offshore oil and gas leases would significantly expand offshore drilling by allowing new leases in waters off Alaska, the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. The new offshore drilling plan would have a devastating impact on fish, wildlife and the ocean ecosystem, as well as the fishing, Indigenous and coastal communities that depend on them for their economies, livelihoods and culture.

We must stop both Trump’s plan to expand offshore drilling in federal waters and Brown’s current expansion off offshore wells in state waters to protect our coastal waters from oil industry pollution and spills.

This expansion of offshore drilling occurs within the context of the bigger picture of the expansion onshore drilling for oil and gas in California. A reportpublished on May 22 by Oil Change International, in collaboration with California-based and national environmental justice and climate groups, reveals how California’s climate leadership requires a managed ramp-down of oil production.

A review of state permitting records in the report “The Sky’s The Limit: California,” shows that more than 20,000 drilling permits, including 12,000 permits for new wells, have been issued during the Brown administration.

“Nearly 8,500 active oil and gas wells are within 2,500 feet of homes, schools, and hospitals, and are disproportionately located in many of the state’s most polluted communities,” according to the report. “These wells were responsible for 12 percent of statewide oil production in 2016: Phasing out their production would cause a significant but manageable additional drop in production.”

The report makes three major recommendations:

  • “Cease issuing permits for new oil and gas extraction wells;
  • Implement a 2,500-foot health buffer zone around homes, schools, and hospitals where production must phase out;
  • Develop a plan for the managed decline of California’s entire fossil fuel sector to maximize the effectiveness of the state’s climate policies; and
  • Develop a transition plan that protects people whose livelihoods are affected by the economic shift, including raising dedicated funds via a Just Transition Fee on oil production.”

The report points out that ending new oil and gas permitting and phasing out drilling in sensitive areas will result in 600+ million barrels of oil staying in the ground in California over the next 12 years.

Why has the Brown administration been promoting an expansion of both onshore and offshore drilling in California in his third and fourth terms of office despite frequently speaking as a climate leader at conferences around the world?

It might have something to do with the fact that Jerry Brown has received over $9.8 million from oil companies, gas companies and utilities since he ran for his third term as governor. For more information on Governor Brown and his environmental policies, you can read the report, “How Green Is Jerry Brown?” at: