A recent poll of voters in California’s 48th Congressional District found overwhelming opposition to the Trump administration proposal to allow more offshore drilling off the California coast.
More than six in ten voters opposed the idea, but that hasn’t stopped Orange County’s embattled Rep. Dana Rohrabacher from fully supporting Trump’s plan to expand the number of oil rigs off the coast. The same poll shows Rohrabacher with a dismal 38 percent approval rating, only slightly more popular than the plans for offshore drilling (at 37 percent) his community thoroughly rejects.
Rohrabacher, who has a lifetime score of 10 percent on the League of Conservation Voters’ National Environmental Scorecard, has a long history of cheerleading more offshore oil drilling, including supporting congressional legislation to that end.
Rohrabacher has called environmentalists “the worst liars in the world” and dismissed research into climate change as “junk science.”
He has also raised almost $100,000 from oil and gas companies, the kind of companies that would benefit from additional offshore drilling. So his support of the Trump administration plan came as no surprise.
In early January, the Trump administration proposed the largest ever expansion of offshore oil and natural gas drilling, including along the California coastlines. This proposal already had Rohrabacher’s blessing.
Rohrbacher joined an August 2017 letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, along with more than 100 House Republicans, encouraging the administration to explore more opportunities for offshore oil drilling.
“There is demonstrated interest in leasing and development of previously excluded areas and we must consider these areas for development to optimize our nation’s resource potential,” the letter said.
While more drilling might benefit his corporate donors, it poses significant dangers to the California coastline.
The BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill killed 11 workers, injured another 17, contaminated more than 1,100 miles of coastline, and lost the tourism industry an estimated $22.7 billion.
California’s coastline is a vibrant tourist destination, and an oil spill could have massive economic consequences.
According to a 2015 report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), coastal tourism and recreation provide California with $17.6 billion per year, along with more than 360,000 jobs. In Southern California alone, “ocean-dependent tourism and recreation generated more than $1 billion of GDP in five California counties: San Mateo, San Francisco, San Diego, Orange, and Los Angeles.”
Bill Whalen, a fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution, told McClatchy that offshore oil could hurt Rohrabacher, especially among independent voters.
“If there is an endangered species in California, it is the Southern California oceanfront Republican,” Whalen said.
Between lackluster fundraising and supporting unpopular positions, no wonder politicians like Rohrabacher are endangered.