Court ruling blocks new oil drilling off California coast

New oil and gas drilling off the California coast has been effectively thwarted, thanks to a federal court ruling last Friday. U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ordered federal officials not to extend leases to energy companies on 36 central-coast tracts until environmental risks have been more fully assessed, a process that’s likely to take years. The U.S. Minerals Management Service has been extending the leases for more than 15 years over the objections of state officials. Ten green groups filed suit after the MMS announced in February that extending them again would not cause significant ecological harm — after rather selectively analyzing only pre-drilling activities, like surveys, while excluding predictable next steps like exploratory drilling, building platforms, and pumping oil. A similar situation in Florida led the feds to buy back offshore oil leases for $235 million, at the special request of Gov. Jeb Bush (R). But negotiations for a California buyback have stalled. Perhaps the Governator is distracted by other matters?