We sometimes forget that the president doesn’t always need the approval of Congress (much less John Boehner) to accomplish something he thinks is important. For instance, today President Obama is expected to sign an executive order announced* plans for protecting a huge chunk of the California coastal ecosystem. The San Francisco Chronicle reports:
President Obama is poised to protect 2,093 square nautical miles of ocean habitat off the coast of Sonoma and Mendocino counties, a move that would more than double the area covered by two national sanctuaries off the West Coast and permanently ban offshore oil drilling there.
The decision, expected Thursday, would create an enormous preserve stretching some 50 miles along the California coast and extending some 30 miles out to sea. It would also fulfill the long-held dream of Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, who has tried repeatedly since 2004 to pass legislation protecting the coastal ecosystem.
That’s an area the size of Delaware, everybody. Ecstatic environmentalists are calling these new protected areas “Yosemites of the Sea.” Not surprisingly, Congressional Republicans have been against it for years.
From the Chronicle:
The proposed expansion from Bodega Bay north to Point Arena in Mendocino County has been blocked repeatedly by congressional Republicans. The only foolproof way to accomplish it now in the face of a Republican majority in the House of Representatives is for President Obama to proclaim it a protected area by executive order, experts say. The nutrient-rich waters from deep ocean upwellings in the Cordell and Farallones regions support about 20 percent of the world’s fish, including salmon. Birds and marine mammals, including sea lions, orcas and gray, blue and humpback whales, also thrive in the area.
Said Rep. Woolsey:
“The only meaningful opposition comes from national oil interests and their allies in Congress, outsiders who want to drill at any cost. This is more than just a matter of environmental urgency; thousands of jobs hang in the balance too. The local fishermen support my sanctuary bill because their livelihoods depend on a rich harvest that’s only possible in a thriving marine ecosystem.”
Apparently, elections have consequences for sea lions, too.
*UPDATE: At the press conference today, the Obama administration announced that NOAA – the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – will hold first hearings on the proposed expansion. As the Mercury News reports, President Obama chose the slower route to avoid some of the upset caused in 2006 when President Bush created a new monument in the Northern Hawaiian Islands. The hearings start next month in California.