Not drilling leaves money on the table
ke for the state Land Board to spurn a hard-fought agreement between South Coast environmentalists and PXP over the future of the so-called Tranquillon Ridge project.
To refresh, the agreement would have allowed PXP to drill new wells on an existing platform and drain the field in return for abandonment of the platform and an onshore refining operation in future years.
The Tranquillon Ridge pact would put hundreds of millions of dollars into state coffers, providing a small but important piece to the state budget mess.
Now, with a major opponent, termed out Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, headed off to a seat in Congress, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has resurrected the project in his budget proposals. To soften the blow for the few enviro groups that don’t like the idea of any new drilling off California, he’s added the wrinkle that funds derived from the project will go to state parks.
We don’t particularly like the idea of dedicating revenue streams to specific purposes when it is the shortfall in California General Fund that’s threatening to push the state over the edge of default. But if that’s what it takes to get a vote for the project past the land board and the legislature, so be it.
California’s leadership has the annoyingly bad habit of leaving billions of dollars in money on the table because a small group of members doesn’t like this or that particular aspect of a public policy decision that makes perfect sense.
One of the opponents is termed-out Assembly member Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, who has used the argument that there’s not enough disclosure in the plan to bolster his environmental bona fides in his quest for the Attorney General post.
Tranquillon Ridge is one of those projects that presents the state with the opportunity to harvest millions of dollars in future tax revenue while eventually delivering to the people of California some real improvements to the environment, both onshore and offshore.
It’s not enough money to close a major piece of the budget gap, but moving it forward would send a message to Wall Street and to the rest of the nation that there’s a broadly-based will to put closing the budget cap over narrow special interests.