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What can $100 million buy you? Apparently California's coastline if Big Oil has its way.

In late January, as chair of the California State Lands Commission, I joined State Controller John Chiang in a two-to-one vote to deny the first offshore oil lease off the coast of California in more than four decades. To permit more oil production off the coast of California, a state seen the world over as a leader in environmental stewardship, would have sent a terrible signal that California isn't yet prepared to embrace a green economy. The risk of a major oil spill killing marine life, soiling the coast, and decimating marine-based industries and tourism is simply too high for a quick buck.

Sadly, as part of yesterday's drastic state budget May Revision, California once again faces a renewed push to allow oil drilling off the coast of California.

More over the flip...

Big Oil has essentially offered to California $100 million dollars to seduce the state into granting the first new oil drilling lease in California since the Santa Barbara oil spill 41 years ago, a spill that covered hundreds of miles of ocean and over 30 miles of sandy beaches with more than three million gallons of crude oil. Learning from history means not blindly repeating the mistakes of the past.

Furthermore, the $100 million loan must be repaid by forgiving future royalty payments to California. This is an incredibly reckless fiscal policy. To drill ourselves out of a recession with this plan is like drinking sea water to quench our thirst. There may be a little temporary relief, but we'll regret it later. California should be a leader in renewable energy production, not a producer of a polluting product best left in the 20th century. We are selling the coast for short term gain, long term loss, and possibly long term devastation.

The Santa Barbara Oil Spill did have one positive outcome. Many environmental historians suggest that it gave birth to the modern environmentalist movement. We need that enthusiasm again.

John Garamendi is the Lieutenant Governor of California, chair of the California State Lands Commission, and a former Deputy Interior Secretary under President Bill Clinton.

Originally posted to JohnGaramendiCA on Fri May 15, 2009 at 06:10 PM PDT.

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