Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A move by the Trump administration to roll back landmark environmental policy intended to ensure vigorous scrutiny of federal infrastructure projects has struck alarm in the hearts of California conservationists, particularly those striving to safeguard North Coast waters from offshore energy exploration and production.
Proposed changes to the 50-year-old National Environmental Policy Act would have sweeping effects nationwide, wherever there is federally built, funded or permitted construction or activity. Examples include mining on federal lands, construction of federally funded highways, or work on interstate gas pipelines or federal dams. But on the North Coast, where residents enjoy some of the most scenic and productive ocean waters on Earth, a coastline already subject to renewed drilling pressures and proposed wind generation facilities may be at greater risk if the NEPA revisions go through, experts say.
“Obviously, it’s going to have dramatic impacts on the whole offshore drilling equation,” said Richard Charter, senior fellow with the Ocean Foundation and a Sonoma Coast resident.
That’s especially true given increased instability in the Middle East due to tension between the United States and Iran, which could move the White House to try to fast-track plans to reopen the North Coast to oil drilling, he said.
“It’s quite frightening,” said Cea Higgins, executive director of Coastwalk California, headquartered in Sonoma County.