California Senate bill would eliminate dirty and dangerous offshore drilling

SACRAMENTO, California– Legislation introduced today in the California Senate would phase out offshore drilling for oil and gas in the state’s coastal waters. The bill follows October’s major oil spill off Orange County and other recent oil industry spills and violations of the law.

Senate Bill 953, introduced by Sen. Dave Min (D-Irvine), would require the State Land Commission to terminate all remaining oil and gas leases under its jurisdiction in the tides and waters of the Status by December 31, 2023.

“Sen. Min’s bill is a crucial response to the oil industry’s horrendous record of toxic pollution on California’s beautiful and fragile coast,” said Miyoko Sakashita, director of oceans at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Decade after decade, offshore drilling has polluted our beaches, poisoned our oceans and killed our wildlife. It’s time to eradicate this dirty, dangerous and utterly reckless industry from our coastal waters.”

There are 11 offshore oil and gas leases in active production in state waters. These operations include the Eva and Emmy platforms near Huntington Beach and the Esther platform off Seal Beach. The bill would not affect oil leases in federal waters or the man-made islands in Long Beach Harbor.

The bill comes after an undersea pipeline connected to drilling platforms in federal waters off Orange County ruptured in October 2021, spilling tens of thousands of gallons of oil into the ocean. The spill polluted beaches and sensitive wetlands, forced the closure of fisheries and injured or killed dozens of fish, birds and marine mammals.

Since that spill, another offshore pipeline connecting the Eva platform to shore has leaked oil off Huntington Beach. These incidents follow a long list of other oil industry spills and issues along the coast and across California, including the massive 2015 Refugio oil spill near Santa Barbara.

Oil and gas drilling companies off the southern California coast violated state regulations at least 381 times in a recent three-year period, according to state records obtained in 2018 by the Center. Violations range from major corrosion and other serious safety threats on offshore drilling rigs to a set of missing and failed well integrity tests on four offshore drilling islands owned by the City of Long Beach.

Offshore oil production is also contributing to the climate crisis. Seven offshore drilling rigs on the California coast have been shut down since the Refugio spill, which was caused by the failure of the coastal Plains All American Pipeline. The Center calculated that by May 2020, the fifth anniversary of the spill, production from these rigs could have added 33.9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution to the atmosphere. This is equivalent to burning nearly 37 billion pounds of coal.

These seven rigs continue to be closed and five additional rigs are temporarily closed due to recent offshore pipeline ruptures off Orange County.

Norman D. Briggs