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White House considers drilling for oil in Farallones sanctuary

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April executive order reviews marine sanctuaries for “missed opportunities”

Piles of large, very round, very smooth stones on a beach by the ocean.
Bowling Ball Beach.
Courtesy NOAA

Back in April, Donald Trump signed an executive order titled “Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy,” initiating among other things “a review of all designations and expansions of National Marine Sanctuaries.”

The White House action calls for:

Analysis of the acreage affected and an analysis of the budgetary impacts of the costs of managing each National Marine Sanctuary or Marine National Monument designation or expansion.

[...And] the opportunity costs associated with potential energy and mineral exploration and production from the Outer Continental Shelf, in addition to any impacts on production in the adjacent region.

In other words, the federal government is reviewing protected ocean habitat areas for potential drilling and mining options.

As CBS noted last week, it turns out that this designation includes part of the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of San Francisco, Napa, and Sonoma counties.

The Farallones Sanctuary encompasses 3,295 square miles of open water, “one of the most diverse and bountiful marine environments in the world,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

NOAA adds: “The waters [...] are a nationally significant marine ecosystem, and support an abundance of life, including many threatened and endangered species.”

The Farallones Sanctuary and nearby Cordell Bank Sanctuary more than doubled in size during the Obama administration.

Perhaps surprisingly, CBS quotes a spokesperson from the Western States Petroleum Association claiming that they’re not actually interested in drilling in sanctuary waters.

Public comment on the executive order remains open until July 26. Members of the public may submit questions or opinions on the White House action here.