Jackson and Williams Announce Legislation in Response to Refugio Oil Spill

June 03, 2015

SACRAMENTO – Two weeks after an oil pipeline ruptured and sent thousands of gallons pouring into the ocean off Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara County, Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) and Assemblymember Das Williams (D-Carpinteria) announced plans to introduce legislation to help prevent future spills and improve oil spill response times.

The legislation, which will face its first policy committee hearings in the Legislature in upcoming weeks, seeks to ensure that pipelines are inspected annually, that local fishing crews and two oil skimmers in Santa Barbara County are ready to respond to spills, and that pipelines along environmentally sensitive areas have technology in place – including automatic shut-off valves – to reduce the amount of oil released in a spill. 

“There are still many unanswered questions about the Refugio Oil Spill. I am not going to stop asking those questions or seeking those answers, “ Jackson said. “But since the spill, it’s already become clear that there is work that we can and must do to help prevent spills and devastation from spills. This includes ensuring that we are better prepared to respond quickly to spills, and to ensure that we have effective, annual pipeline inspections that will detect problems before they become disasters.”

“The devastating recent Refugio Oil Spill in Santa Barbara County has affected our community gravely, and I am still deeply saddened to see our beautiful coast covered in crude oil. As Chair of Natural Resources Committee, I will hold a hearing to find answers that explain the collapse in communication that allowed such a drastic oil spill to go undetected until it was far too late,” Williams stated. “In addition, I will introduce legislation that requires oil pipelines to use the best available technology, including automatic shut off valves, to protect our state waters, wildlife, and California’s beautiful coastline during these sad instances. This effort will help prevent oil spills of this magnitude from hurting our oceans and coasts.”

Jackson plans to introduce two pieces of legislation, which will also be principally co-authored by Williams:

SB 414 (Jackson) THE RAPID OIL SPILL RESPONSE ACT. This bill would help make oil spill response faster, more effective, and more environmentally friendly. Among other things, the bill would: 1) Create a voluntary program for local fishing vessels and crews to become paid contractors who can immediately respond to oil spills through the Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) 2) Pre-position two oil skimmers at all times along the Santa Barbara coastline to be ready to respond to oil spills, and 3) Place a temporary moratorium on the use of dispersants within state waters until the US EPA finalizes its policies on dispersants and OSPR completes a report to the Legislature required by this bill.

PIPELINES INSPECTION BILL (Jackson): This bill would require annual oil pipeline inspections and would reestablish the State Fire Marshal’s role in inspecting federally regulated pipelines.

Williams plans to introduce a bill, which will also be principally co-authored by Jackson:

SHUT-OFF TECHNOLOGY (Williams): This bill requires pipelines along environmentally and ecologically sensitive areas along the coast to use the best available technology to reduce the amount of oil released in an oil spill in order to protect state waters and wildlife. This includes automatic shut off technology, and requires the pipeline operator to document the best technology used in their oil spill contingency plan.

These bills will be amended and the language will be public in upcoming days, and will have their first policy committee hearings this month.