Schwarzenegger Ends Backing For Offshore Drilling The California governor cited the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico as the reason for his about-face. The state had hoped to use $100 million from a deal with a Houston-based energy company to plug the budget deficit.
NPR logo Schwarzenegger Ends Backing For Offshore Drilling

Schwarzenegger Ends Backing For Offshore Drilling

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Monday reversed his position on expanding drilling off California's coast in the wake of the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

"You turn on the television and see this enormous disaster, you say to yourself, 'Why would we want to take on that kind of risk?' " Schwarzenegger said at a news conference.

The announcement ensures that no new drilling will take place off the state's coastline in the foreseeable future because Schwarzenegger would have to include the drilling proposal in his May revision of the state budget.

Schwarzenegger had been counting on revenue from expanded drilling in the ocean off Santa Barbara to help close the state's $20 billion budget deficit. Democrats last year blocked a similar proposal, but Schwarzenegger renewed his support for the plan, saying it was a reliable way to increase revenue as the state grapples with an ongoing fiscal crisis.

On Monday, Schwarzenegger said his support had been based on numerous studies finding it was safe to drill. But now, "I see on TV, the birds drenched in oil, the fishermen out of work, the massive oil spill, oil slick destroying our precious ecosystem," the governor said.

A Houston-based company wanted to drill 30 new slant wells into state territory from an existing platform in federal waters. It would've brought the state $100 million. Schwarzenegger said he would find another way to plug the state's budget deficit.

In 1969, a blowout at an oil platform off the Santa Barbara coast fouled miles of beaches, helped spark the environmental movement and led to a moratorium on offshore drilling.

Currently, 27 platforms operate off the central and southern California coasts. They produced 13.3 million barrels of oil in 2009.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.