SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Feb. 13, 2018) – California plans to take on Trump administration efforts to expand offshore oil drilling by blocking the transportation of petroleum through the state.

According to a Reuters report, California officials say they plan to deny pipeline permits for transporting oil from new leases off the Pacific coast.

Last month, the Department of the Interior announced a proposal to open up nearly all U.S. offshore waters to oil drilling. California isn’t alone in opposing the plan. Officials in Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Delaware and Washington state have all protested, and governors from nearly every U.S. coastal state except Alaska and Maine have expressed opposition. But California is the first state to announce concrete steps to try to stop the policy.

California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom chairs the California State Lands Commission. He was resolute in his determination to stop the offshore drilling

“I am resolved that not a single drop from Trump’s new oil plan ever makes landfall in California,” he said in an email statement.

According to Reuters, the commission sent a letter to the U.S. Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), It said the agency should withdraw the draft proposal because there was not enough opportunity for the public to weigh in.

”It is certain that the state would not approve new pipelines or allow use of existing pipelines to transport oil from new leases onshore,” the commission wrote in the letter seen by Reuters.

The strategy is similar to the one used by Nevada to block construction of a nuclear waste facility on Yucca Mountain.The Department of Energy (DOE) filed five applications to obtain the water it needed to begin drilling and constructing the facility. Each time, the state of Nevada denied the permits and refused to grant access to the water. Without water, the Yucca Mountain waste dump project was stopped cold.

Denying permits for pipelines to move oil through the state could have a similar effect on the drilling plan.

The strategy follows the blueprint laid out by James Madison in Federalist #46 where he advised “a refusal to cooperate with offers of the union” when the federal government commits an “unwarrantable” or unpopular act. This provides an extremely effective means of confronting federal power. The feds depend on state cooperation and resources to enforce nearly all of its laws and to implement all of its programs.

If California follows through and refuses to approve pipeline permits, it will stand on solid legal ground – a well-established legal principle known as the anti-commandeering doctrine. Simply put, the federal government cannot force states to help implement or enforce any federal act or program. The anti-commandeering doctrine is based primarily on four Supreme Court cases dating back to 1842. Printz v. U.S. serves as the cornerstone.

“We held in New York that Congress cannot compel the States to enact or enforce a federal regulatory program. Today we hold that Congress cannot circumvent that prohibition by conscripting the States’ officers directly. The Federal Government may neither issue directives requiring the States to address particular problems, nor command the States’ officers, or those of their political subdivisions, to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program. It matters not whether policy making is involved, and no case by case weighing of the burdens or benefits is necessary; such commands are fundamentally incompatible with our constitutional system of dual sovereignty.”

California could throw a giant monkey wrench in plans to drill along the U.S. Pacific coast. If Oregon and Washington state take similar measure, it could possibly shut it down completely.

Mike Maharrey

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