SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - The Trump Administration's Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke is scheduled to travel to Santa Barbara Monday as a guest speaker at the Reagan Center.
Confirmation of Zinke's appearance ramped up tensions and sparked concerns among local environmentalists.
Since taking office, Donald Trump's Interior Department has repeatedly sought to destroy publicly-owned lands for fossil fuel development.
Zinke's visit comes just over a month after the Secretary said, "Opening more federal lands and waters to oil and gas drilling is a pillar of President Trump's plan to make the United States energy-independent."
The quote, dated March 6, 2017, appears on the U.S. Department of Interior's website and made reference to the Gulf of Mexico.
Walter Cruickshank, the acting director of Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), estimates that the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) contains about 90 billion barrels of undiscovered technically recoverable oil and 327 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered technically recoverable gas. The Gulf of Mexico OCS, covering about 160 million acres, has technically recoverable resources of 48.46 billion barrels of oil and 141.76 trillion cubic feet of gas.
As of March 1, 2017, about 16.9 million acres on the U.S. OCS are under lease for oil and gas development (3,194 active leases) and 4.6 million of those acres (929 leases) are producing oil and natural gas. More than 97 percent of these leases are in the Gulf of Mexico; about 3 percent are on the OCS off California and Alaska.
"Just last week Zinke told an industry conference that an offshore oil directive was set to be issued soon," the Sierra Club said in a letter released Sunday. "That's why it's surprising that he would then hold an event a block from the beach that was the site of the first major offshore oil spill in the U.S. Our Congressman is Salud Carbajal and his first act in Congress was to introduce a ban on offshore drilling. That's a testament to the sentiment against drilling here. Of course there's a protest."
Zinke also ended the federal coal leasing moratorium, which protected our public lands and prevented publicly-owned coal from being sold for pennies on the dollar, and even had the Bureau of Land Management's homepage swap an image of a family enjoying our public lands to one of a coal mine.
Sierra Club and other local organizations say they will protest outside the doors during the speech.
The Sierra Club said while the details of the speech are currently unknown, there are rumors that President Trump and Zinke may seek to renew offshore drilling in the Pacific Ocean.
There have been no new offshore drilling leases offered since 1982.
The Sierra club pointed out that the waters just off Santa Barbara have a history of oil spills, including what was then the largest oil spill in American waters in 1969. This disaster dumped as much as 100,000 barrels into the Pacific Ocean. In 2015, an oil pipeline ruptured just off Santa Barbara’s coasts, spilling more than 100,000 gallons of oil.
Secretary Zinke is scheduled to speak at the Reagan Ranch Center, 217 State Street in Santa Barbara, at 6:30 p.m. Monday. The event is sold out.