While raking in more than $177,000 from the oil and gas industry, Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Irvine) encouraged the Trump administration’s most recent offshore drilling proposal.
In early January, the Trump administration proposed the largest ever expansion of offshore oil and natural gas drilling, including miles and miles of California coastlines, with the encouragement and blessing of Walters.
In August 2017, Walters joined more than 100 House Republicans in a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke 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.
Zinke cited the letter when he announced the administration’s plan to do exactly what Walters wanted: look into expanded offshore drilling.
While the proposal may benefit her corporate donors, offshore drilling 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 the tourism industry lost an estimated $22.7 billion.
A similar spill could devastate the California coastline, and cause untold economic and environmental devastation.
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, including 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.”
Even without catastrophic oil spills, increased drilling still means increased oil spills at a smaller level. “Everyday drilling and extracting — that is, bringing the oil to the surface — result in chronic leaks adding up to 11 million gallons of oil pollution annually,” according to environmental groups.
In aligning her views with the Trump administration, Walters is ignoring the will of Californians.
A recent poll shows that 7 in 10 Californians oppose more offshore drilling, the highest level of opposition to offshore drilling in more than a decade of Public Policy Institute of California asking the question.
Bill Whalen, chief speechwriter for former California Republican Gov. Pete Wilson and current fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution, says that the offshore drilling proposal could pose a problem for Walters, especially among independent voters.
“If there is an endangered species in California, it is the Southern California oceanfront Republican,” said Whalen.
By aligning herself with Trump, Walters could move oceanfront Republicans from endangered to extinct.