Wetlands Land Swap

The approval by the California Coastal Commission on Dec. 13 was not a win for the Wetlands or for the local environment.  Despite the commission staff’s report stating that the project is “inconsistent with the Coastal Act’s oil spill and visual policies,” the majority of Thursday’s commission members voted (6-3) not on the reported risks but on the eligibility for “override.”  Their vote essentially said: yes, there are risks to public safety; yes, there will be increased greenhouse gas emissions; yes, there is risk of seismic activity; yes, up to 2.8 million barrels of oil could spill and make its way into the ocean; yes, this project is inconsistent with the coastal act; but, based on technical loopholes which allow us to overlook these findings, we vote in favor of oil.  And so they did – applied the letter of the law; ignored the intent of the law.

I was there.  I watched Chairperson Dayna Bochco ask for vital clarification only minutes before voting.  She asked about water use – how much public water will be used for drilling?  Staff didn’t know.  She asked about transporting oil – will trucks be used to move oil?  Staff didn’t know.  She asked about the increase in greenhouse gas emissions – how much more will the project contribute to Long Beach air?  Long Beach Zoning Administrator Christopher Koontz was allowed to answer.  He explained increased emissions will be offset with mitigation credits (buy-offs).  But the fact is, you cannot buy clean air with cap & trade money.  Only the applicant – Beach Oil Minerals – and the city were allowed to answer Bochco’s questions.  Opposition (including scientists and experts) was not allowed to reply.  (Biased much?) 

In search for truth, Commissioner Linda Escalante made a motion to postpone the decision and continue the meeting after further review and public input.  A second to the motion did not help.  Instead a moment of reason was denied (7-2).  So with minutes to spare before the meeting’s conclusion, critical issues were raised as if for show, then left without adequate answers.  Yet, Chairperson Bochco was completely satisfied saying, “I feel better now.”  The woman directing the meeting revealed that she was not clear on serious components of the project, but voted yes anyway.  The commissioners in favor followed suit. 

There’s not enough room here to cover all the bias.  But look no further than Roberto Uranga for evidence.  He was allowed to vote in favor of this project as a Long Beach City Councilmember, as member of the Los Cerritos Wetlands Authority Board and as a Coastal Commissioner.  How is that not a conflict of interest?!  Maybe because this is the state of Long Beach government and apparently the Coastal Commission as well:  Ignore the absolute risks to people, environment and wildlife; vote yes for oil, money and political favor.  This project was never about wetlands restoration.  People have been fooled.

Leslie Rash



It is outrageous that during the UN climate conference in Poland, the Coastal Commission and the City of Long Beach would agree to a project that will drill 120 new wells under the Los Cerritos wetlands on the border of Long Beach and Seal Beach. We have met with the elected leaders, but they will not listen to basic reason.

The deal is a land swap that is supposed to restore the wetlands, yet it allows 200 million barrels of crude oil to be extracted beneath the wet lands. The oil extraction will continue for a period of 20 years. The new wells and an above-ground pipeline will be adjacent to the Newport-Englewood Fault, even though it was this very Fault that was responsible for the 1933 earthquake that devastated the city of Long Beach.

Dangerously compounding this is the fact that rising temperatures are causing droughts, which, in turn, cause wars and social disruption. Rising waters and catastrophic storms are literally making parts of the world uninhabitable.

It is unconscionable that the city of Long Beach and the Coastal Commission have approved this oil drilling project. Actions speak louder than words. With residential waste recycling and an innumerable number of bike lanes, Long Beach brags that it is a green city. All this green business is a sham. In truth, the city of Long Beach is about the oil industry. Whether it’s from the tidelands, or beneath the Los Cerritos Wetlands it’s all about oil. Politicians who are supposedly liberal Democrats and so-called savors of the wetlands have made a pact with the devil.

Those that align themselves with the oil industry are aligning themselves with Trump and his cronies. And when this project goes bust, you can bet it will be the Long Beach tax payers who will end up holding the bag. The only hope is that the efforts to save this planet by a grassroots movement to develop renewal energy will lower demand for oil, making drilling 120 new wells unprofitable.

It is interesting to note that the Coastal Commission is capping production at 24,000 barrels per day! That is a shocking 1,000,000 gallons per day! It is urgent that we combat the wrongful actions of our City Council and Coastal Commission. One possibility is a ballot initiative that would cap the amount of oil at a more reasonable level, or even prohibit the drilling entirely. Those who care about the future of the planet must join together to combat this drilling.

Marshall Blesofsky

The writer is on the steering committee of the Long Beach Area Peace Network one of the organizations who opposed this project.


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