Last week, Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, formally reintroduced the California Clean Coast Act, calling for protection for California’s coast from offshore drilling and the impact of oil spills.
The bill was Rep. Carbajal’s first bill introduced as a member of Congress, and comes on the heels of President Joe Biden’s executive orders signed last week to temporarily halt oil and gas drilling on federal public lands and offshore waters. The orders also identify steps to double renewable energy production from offshore wind by 2030.
Rep. Carbajal’s bill calls for a permanent ban for future offshore oil and gas leasing in the areas off the coast of California. The bill was reintroduced to coincide with the 52nd anniversary of the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, in which 100,000 barrels of crude oil were spilled into the local waters.
“The Central Coast has witnessed the devastation of oil spills first-hand, including the toll they take on our coastal communities, local economies, and fragile ocean ecosystems. 52 years and several oil spills later, we must pass this bill and permanently end new oil and gas development off our shore,” Rep. Carbajal said in a statement. “It’s time we relied less on fossil fuels and more on renewable energies, like offshore wind, which will create energy and good-paying jobs without damaging our environment or our planet.”
Several local environmental advocates praised Rep. Carbajal and voiced support for the legislation.
“The west coast is united in opposition to offshore oil drilling where even small spills can have devastating economic and ecological impacts,” Katie Davis, chair of Santa Barbara Sierra Club, said in a statement.
Added Linda Krop, chief counsel of the Environmental Defense Center, which was founded in the aftermath of the 1969 spill, “The California Clean Coast Act is necessary to protect our coast from the threats of offshore oil drilling. From the 1969 blowout at Platform A, to the 2015 pipeline spill along the Gaviota Coast, the Central Coast has suffered the devastating effects of offshore oil development on our communities and those who live, recreate, and work here. We know that when it comes to offshore oil drilling, it is not a question of if – but when – another spill will devastate our beaches and ocean waters.
“The California Clean Coast Act will preserve our precious coast from the threats of future oil spills and climate change.”
Michael Cohwn, owner of Santa Barbara Adventure company, described the Channel Islands and the local coastline as “our office, our classroom, our playground and our sanctuary,” in voicing support for the legislation.
“Fragile marine ecosystems rely on our coastlines as their habitat and for survival. We are their voice,” he said. “We need to continue to protect our coastlines, to ensure coastal outdoor recreation opportunities for generations to come, as well as protect small businesses and the tourism industry alike through the preservation of a pristine coastal environment.”
The reintroduction came following a bill introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, calling for a permanent ban on oil and gas drilling in federal waters. A companion bill was expected to be introduced in the House.
Sen. Feinstein’s bill, the West Coast Ocean Protection Act, would make the moratorium permanent in federal waters along the West Coast preventing future administrations from overturning it, according to a news release.
“California understands all too well the danger that offshore drilling poses to our oceans and coastal economies,” Sen. Feinstein said in a statement. “President Biden is committed to reducing our carbon emissions, and I applaud his decision to enact a temporary moratorium. This bill takes that action a step further, codifying the proposal so future administrations can’t overturn it. It’s time to permanently ban new offshore oil and gas drilling along the West Coast. Doing so represents a giant step toward the vital goal of building a cleaner, more sustainable energy future.”
According to Sen. Feinstein, no new offshore drilling has been allowed in federal waters along the Pacific Coast since 1984. However, the Trump administration released a five-year offshore leasing plan in 2018 that proposed opening up the entire West Coast to new drilling despite widespread opposition in Pacific coast states. That proposal has been blocked by the courts but the threat of drilling will remain until a permanent ban is enacted.