At the first oversight hearing held by the Select Committee on the Orange County Oil Spill, legislators evaluated if and how California law, regulations and protocols should be updated after the 25,000-gallon oil spill that occurred off California’s coast in early October. The responsible party, Amplify Energy, was invited to the hearing but did not attend.
“It is past time to stop offshore drilling along our precious California coast. This disaster is an opportunity to make real and lasting change, and will not be just another footnote in our history books,” said Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, Chair of the Select Committee on the Orange County Oil Spill (D-Laguna Beach). “I look forward to working together to turn this corner and build California’s clean energy future.”
Panelists were asked to unravel the timeline of events following the initial reports of the oil spill and the role of the relevant government partners in response efforts. The Director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife went on to provide an overview of the response procedures currently in place and legislators posed a series of questions on how the speed and effectiveness of the response could be improved. Throughout the hearing, legislators and panelists emphasized the need to streamline communication between local, state and federal partners when an oil spill occurs. One suggestion related to oil spill response included ensuring cities have an adequate emergency supply of oil spill response equipment.
Legislators and panelists discussed additional ideas to improve spill response and oversight of offshore oil pipelines in California, specifically by:
- Improving oil detection technology in order to spot oil in the dark
- Requiring more frequent safety assessments of offshore oil pipelines
- Requiring offshore oil pipelines be operated underground, not on the ocean floor
- Requiring greater performance standards among oil companies’ oil leak detection systems
This oversight hearing marks the first of many discussions to get to the bottom of what happened, ensure that the responsible party is held fully accountable, and identify the steps needed to ensure that an environmental disaster like this does not occur again.
The next hearing of the Select Committee on the Orange County Oil Spill will be held in January.
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING
“The Select Committee learned a lot of new information yesterday on the Huntington Beach oil spill, but there’s one key fact we already knew: offshore drilling off of California’s shores must end now,” said Assemblywoman Luz Rivas, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources (D-San Fernando Valley).“We need the federal government to step up by shutting down all of these environmentally and economically hazardous oil platforms and banning offshore drilling in federal waters immediately. These environmental disasters have dealt more than enough damage to our fragile marine ecosystem and California’s coastal economies, which are not just a critical economic engine for our state, but the nation as well.”
“Our coast won’t be fully protected until we completely remove oil from our waters. California’s coast is part of the soul of our state, and we must hold the responsible parties accountable for damaging our beaches and ocean wildlife,” said Assemblymember Richard Bloom, Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 3 on Climate Crisis, Resources, Energy, and Transportation (D-Santa Monica).
“This most recent oil spill has highlighted just how far we have to go to protect our coastline,” said Assemblymember Robert Rivas (D-Salinas). “The oil that spilled in a matter of days in Orange County will, unfortunately, impact our ecosystem, economy, and communities for years to come. I applaud Assemblymember Petrie-Norris for her leadership on this critical issue.”
“We need to shut down all offshore oil drilling to protect California’s beautiful coast. The Orange County offshore oil spill was just the latest environmental disaster in our state’s recent history. In 2018, I authored AB 1775 to ban new oil leases and infrastructure in state waters, but we were not able to shut down existing oil drilling operations. We need to phase out all offshore oil operations and transition to renewable energy to protect our coast and to save our planet,” said Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance).
“I appreciate the testimony from the witnesses at yesterday’s hearing. There seems to be significant work that still needs to be done to ensure pipeline safety, and I will work with my colleagues to achieve those goals,” said Assemblymember Steve Bennett (D-Ventura).
“I appreciate the work of the Chair and the cooperation of the agencies who presented and discussed solutions yesterday. We have a responsibility as officials to be informed and provide the most up-to-date information for our constituents. For the health and safety of our communities and beautiful coastlines, an event like this cannot happen again. We discussed increasing communication to elected officials, pipeline location notifications to cargo ships and addressing decaying and abandoned lines. I’m looking forward to working on the solutions discussed,” said Assemblywoman Janet Nguyen (R-Huntington Beach)
“I am grateful for the opportunity to serve on this Committee and appreciated hearing from stakeholders during our first hearing,” said Assemblywoman Laurie Davies (R-Laguna Niguel). “Orange & San Diego County residents deserve to know how we got here and what is being done to prevent another disaster. We must improve our response coordination with our federal partners and local teams. However, in the coming weeks and hearings, I will also use this opportunity to ensure any recommendations related to oil production are made with common-sense rationale. During a time when Californian’s are seeing record-high oil prices, it is irresponsible to use this oil spill as an excuse to introduce attention-seeking legislation that could drive up the cost for consumers even more.”