CALIFORNIA:

Offshore drilling, BPA bills fail in state Legislature

A bill that would have allowed the first new offshore oil lease in California in 30 years to offset budget woes failed to pass the state Legislature last week, leaving the longstanding moratorium intact for now.

A.B. 1536 died in committee Friday, to the relief of environmental groups that had supported an offshore drilling lease proposal earlier this year by Houston-based Plains Exploration and Production Co., or PXP.

PXP had secured the support of several environmental groups by promising to donate land and shut down all drilling off the coast of Santa Barbara by 2022, but those groups balked at the prospect of circumventing the State Lands Commission, the body normally in charge of in-state energy production (Greenwire, June 2).

The bill by Assembly Minority Leader Sam Blakeslee (R) would have supplanted the Lands Commission with a three-member board of appointees of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) instead of one appointee and two elected officials. The commission voted in January to reject PXP's offer, despite the environmental concessions and up to $5 billion in oil royalties through 2022 it could produce.

S.B. 1536 was a rehash of a provision inserted into a July budget deal that would have given the state $100 million up front to help defray its $26 billion budget deficit (Greenwire, July 23).

Environmental advocates said they hoped the deal would go back to the commission. "We oppose A.B. 1536 just as we opposed the governor's budget proposal a month or two ago," said Linda Krop, chief counsel for the Environmental Defense Center, which brokered the original deal with PXP. "We don't approve of the process of circumventing the State Lands Commission. We would like to bring our project back to them; we think we can respond to the concerns that were raised, and we think it will provide incredible benefits for the state of California."

BPA ban also fails

Another bill likely to return next session is S.B. 797, a proposal to ban the chemical bisphenol A from use in baby bottles and other containers used by young children.

Sen. Fran Pavley's (D) bill would have banned BPA from feeding products designed for children under 3, starting in 2011. Studies have linked the chemical to neurological disorders, cancers and reproductive deformities. The Food and Drug Administration will decide by November whether BPA is safe to use in food containers (Greenwire, Aug. 15).

Pavley blamed manufacturers of plastics and baby formula for the defeat. "This has been a real David versus Goliath fight and I'm saddened that some of my colleagues in the Assembly chose to ignore the health of our babies and toddlers and instead sided with the powerful chemical and pharmaceutical industries," Pavley said in a statement.

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