Push to Ban Off-Shore Oil Drilling in California

by on October 7, 2021 · 0 comments

in California, Environment

Will the sun set on off-shore oil drilling?

Times of San Diego

Democratic members of Congress from California seized on the oil spill off the state’s coast to promote federal legislation to ban all offshore oil drilling, as investigators searched for what caused the pipeline to burst.

About 144,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into the Pacific Ocean, killing wildlife, soiling the coastline and forcing officials to close beaches in several cities in Orange County. The spill follows dozens of incidents in the Gulf of Mexico following Hurricane Ida, which slammed into the U.S. Gulf in late August and damaged rigs and pipelines.

There are 23 rigs operating off California’s coast, producing just 12,000 barrels of oil a day — a far cry from the 1 million-plus barrels in daily crude output from the U.S. Gulf. California once produced more than 200,000 barrels of crude everyday offshore. But activity has dwindled, and some lawmakers want to see it shut outright.

“We have to do all we can to ensure that we phase out the 23 rigs that are out there now, and that we ban all new offshore rigs,” said Rep. Mike Levin, a Democrat who represents the 49th District that lies just south of the Huntington Beach spill. [See entire Levin letter below]

It is unclear whether Congressional Democrats would be able to pass legislation to curtail offshore drilling, particularly in the Gulf. President Joe Biden has vowed to reduce the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels.

The Trump Administration actively explored approving drilling in other places, including the U.S. East Coast, but the plan never came to fruition. [Editordude: balance continues after Rep. Levin’s letter.]

Letter from US House of Representative Mike Levin:

By Rep. Mike Levin

Our coastal communities are experiencing another grave ecological disaster.

The oil spill that began on Saturday, Oct. 2, off the coast of Orange County is devastating, and it’s devastating to see the wildlife and marine animals that are being harmed or killed by this spill.

I’m also thinking of all of the Californians who deeply cherish our coast and ocean, as well as the small business owners who rely on our coastal activity for their livelihoods.

This kind of disaster is exactly why I introduced my American Coasts and Oceans Protection Act to prohibit any new leasing for the exploration, development, or production of oil or natural gas along the Southern California coast, from San Diego to the northern border of San Luis Obispo County.

It’s time to put our environment and our coastal economy first, not the fossil fuel companies that profit while polluting our coastline. Now, we’re seeing, yet again, what happens when we put the fossil fuel industry ahead of our communities and our planet.

For every massive oil spill like this one, we are not only adding to the pollution of our oceans, but also directly jeopardizing thousands of coastal-related jobs.

This isn’t the first time our communities experienced an oil spill disaster. More than 4 million gallons of oil have been released into the Pacific Ocean as a result of the 1969 Santa Barbara blowout, the Refugio Beach spill of 2015, and other leaks from oil rig and pipeline activity, affecting more than 935 square miles of ocean. This spill has pushed that number even higher.

This isn’t a partisan issue. I consistently ask constituents if anyone wants to see more drilling off our California coast. No hands go up. No Republican hands, no Democratic hands, and no Independent hands. Californians have made it clear that they are strongly opposed to new offshore oil and gas drilling along our coast.

The previous administration in Washington repeatedly pushed to expand offshore drilling and rolled back crucial safety regulations that help prevent spills, and now, here we are once again in the aftermath of a catastrophic spill.

We need to be focusing on cutting emissions and protecting coastal communities from rising sea levels, not extracting more oil so the fossil fuel industry can profit. That is why the Build Back Better Act is so crucial.

I’m proud to say that we successfully secured a provision in the Build Back Better Act that mirrors my legislation to end new offshore drilling activity off the Southern California coast. In fact, the provision would protect the entire West Coast.

I’m committed to passing the entirety of the President’s Build Back Better agenda, and in the wake of this environmental disaster, it’s more important than ever that we get that legislation across the finish line.

U.S. Representative Mike Levin represents the 49th Congressional District, which includes the South Orange County cities of Dana Point, San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano. He was reelected for a second term in 2020 and resides in San Juan Capistrano with his wife and two children.

Balance of article:

The U.S. Coast Guard and drilling company Amplify Energy Corp came under further scrutiny about the time it took to respond to the spill, amid reports that mariners first reported seeing oil in the water on Friday night, when official notification did not come until Saturday around midday.

Tom Umberg, a state Senator who represents the coastal region, told a news conference that officials needed to explain why the response was delayed and whether the pipeline had been adequately inspected.

“It’s very difficult for us to understand how this could occur,” Umberg said, joining a chorus of indignant elected officials and citizens.

The pipeline that burst is supposed to be inspected every two years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement , which monitors offshore activity. The pipeline’s last internal inspection was October 2019.

The oil appears to have leaked through a 13-inch gash in the pipe, which was pulled about 105 feet from where it should have been, Martyn Willsher, chief executive of Amplify Energy, told a news conference. Amplify owns the pipeline and connected rigs.

In all, a 4,000-foot section of the 17.7-mile pipeline was displaced laterally, Coast Guard Captain Rebecca Ore told reporters.

The type of oil that is leaking is thick and tarry. According to federal filings, the crude has an American Petroleum Institute gravity ranging from 13 to 16, indicating its thick characteristics. That means some of it may not float, making it even harder to clean up.

Alan Lowenthal, a Democrat whose district lies just to the north of the Orange County spill, told a news conference on Tuesday that he has backed legislation that would ban oil drilling in the Pacific, the Atlantic or in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

“When there’s drilling, there will be spilling,” he said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration logged more than 50 reports of pollution following Ida, a powerful hurricane that damaged numerous offshore facilities and transfer stations, and at one point shut in most of the Gulf’s oil-and-gas production capacity.

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