Resource Issues: Oil and Gas Development
Development of a permanent prohibition on oil and gas activity was one of the major reasons for designation of the Monterey Bay Sanctuary. However, there is some level of remaining threat due to potential oil development to the south of the Sanctuary. In the past 10 years the State of California has adopted legal restrictions to prohibit new oil and gas leasing and development. Temporary moratoria have been in place for federal waters since 1982. The most current directive (June 1998, Clinton administration) under the OCS Lands Act prevents any leasing of new areas for oil and gas exploration and development through June 30, 2012. The OCS presidential deferrals do not restrict development of already leased Federal areas. There are 36 remaining undeveloped active OCS leases south of the MBNMS off the coast in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties. Should these sites eventually be developed, any potential spills could potentially cross Sanctuary boundaries and impact sanctuary resources. Oil spills could have a major impact on foraging birds, marine mammals and fishes, as well as important habitat like kelp beds, wetlands and rocky shores, and on tourism and the coastal economy.