Wednesday, September 2, 2009

CGF's San Mateo County Update

This month, the Committee for Green Foothills has been busy in San Mateo County - protecting our coasts and creeks from development and speaking out against new permits for offshore oil drilling permits. A quick update:

Coastal Commission Workshop with Local Governments:
A couple of years ago, the League of Cities formed a “Coastal Cities Issues Group” that has been pushing to re-set decision-making to favor local government. Currently each jurisdiction with land in the coastal zone must prepare a Local Coastal Program (LCP) that is consistent with the Coastal Act. The LCP must then go to the Coastal Commission for certification that the Land Use Plan policies and implementing ordinances are consistent with the Coastal Act. A similar process is followed for LCP Amendments, many of which are driven by development projects that may well not be consistent with the Coastal Act. Many local elected officials up and down the state are not supportive of the Coastal Act, and are continuously trying to find ways to either ignore or berate the Coastal Commission. There was a Workshop on August 12 in San Francisco between the 12 Commission members and 12 elected officials – 6 from coastal cities, and 6 from coastal counties. A very small amount of time was allowed for interested public members to be heard. Limiting the public in such a forum is contrary to the Coastal Act, which requires “maximum public participation” in any decisions affecting the coast. Many environmental groups wrote letters objecting to the workshop format, and the fact that the Coastal Cities Issues Group meets privately. CGF advocate Lennie Roberts wrote a letter and spoke at the Workshop, pointing out that San Mateo County has a strong Local Coastal Program that can’t be weakened without voter approval, and it takes constant education of elected officials that the public supports coastal protection.

San Francisquito Creek Protection: CGF opposed the subdivision of a parcel in the Stanford Weekend Acres area. The property already has two old houses on it, and part of the property is within the creek. The houses would be vastly enlarged, and the one in the back actually hangs seven feet over the creek – clearly not consistent with creek protection. The applicant was asking for an exception to the requirement for a 20 foot wide driveway to access the “flag” lot. Due to CGF and other opposition, the Zoning Hearing Officer denied the subdivision.

PXP Offshore Oil Lease: CGF signed on to a letter with 33 other environmental groups opposing the Governor’s inclusion in the state budget a provision that would override the State Lands Commission’s denial of a new offshore oil lease off Santa Barbara. The Governor’s intervention in favor of PXP would have allowed the first offshore oil drilling in state waters in 40 years, and would have made it impossible for the state to oppose federal leases in federal waters (beyond three miles). CGF has had a long-standing position of opposition to offshore oil drilling. We led the effort in 1986 to pass Measure A, the citizen initiative that prohibits onshore oil facilities for offshore drilling. CGF also opposed Lease Sale 30 back in the early 80’s, which would have allowed drilling off the San Mateo coast.

The alternative to allowing drilling in state or federal waters is an oil severance tax. California is the only state in the top 10 producing states that does NOT have this tax. Assemblymember Pedro Nava will be authoring legislation which would require the oil industry to pay a severance of 10% of the gross value of each barrel of oil pumped in California. This would produce an estimated $1.5 billion annual revenue to the General Fund, and help close the gap in our state budget. The legislation would prevent oil companies from passing this fee on to motorists. CGF is supporting these provisions.

-Lennie (with assistance from CGF Intern Shari Pomerantz)

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