Yurok Tribal representatives on Thursday spoke against federal plans to expand offshore oil and gas drilling in California.
Tribal representatives attended a U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management public meeting in Sacramento to comment on the 2019-2024 National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Draft Proposed Program.
The Draft Proposed Program outlines President Donald Trump’s America-First Offshore Energy Strategy, which would make more than 98 percent of the outer continental shelf available to be considered for oil and gas leasing during the 2019-2024 period.
The Draft Proposed Program includes seven lease sales in the Pacific region with two in Northern California.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management hasn’t identified the geographical areas of the lease areas in Northern California, according to John Romero, the bureau’s Pacific region spokesman.
“This will come later if the Northern California planning area is included in the final program,” Romero said in an email Thursday, adding that bureau is still seeking public comment on the Draft Proposed Program. “We are at the first of the multi-stage process.”
According to the 2019-2024 National OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Draft Proposed Program, production from the exploration and development of newly available outer continental shelf areas likely won’t occur for a decade or more. However once begun, production could occur for 30 to 40 years or longer, according to the program.
At the Bureau’s public meeting, Yurok representatives outlined their concern about the plan’s potential to harm sacred sites, cultural resources and the tribe’s traditional food supply, according to a tribal press release. Yurok representatives also spoke about the plan’s potential to accelerate climate change.
Tribal representatives noted that while half of the reservation does not have access to electricity, phones or broadband, it is not willing to accept the risk offshore drilling presents to the “Yurok way of life,” according to the release.
“One need not look any further than the sharp declines in salmon, abalone and many other marine populations to see that the ocean ecosystem is out of balance and this plan will only advance this terrible trend,” said Yurok Tribal Chairman Thomas P. O’Rourke Sr. “We should be investing in energy projects that will leave this planet in a better place for all future generations of people, not making it exponentially worse.”
In its press release, the Yurok Tribe cited the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and stated that if a similar event occurred in Northern California it would destroy the salmon nursery near the mouth of the Klamath River as well as other species its people harvest for food including mussels and clams.
The Tribe also brought up the 2011-2017 drought and warming ocean waters that have been blamed for the recent collapse of the Klamath River salmon fishery as well as their concern about the potential of installing oil rigs close to the Cascadia Subduction Zone.
For more information on the 2019-2024 National OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Draft Proposed Program, visit www.boem.gov/National-Program/