Legislation to Improve Oil Spill Clean-up and Prohibit New Offshore Oil Drilling Passes out of Committee Today

June 29, 2015

SACRAMENTO – Two bills authored by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) related to the recent Refugio Oil Spill passed out of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee today.

Senate Bill 414, the Rapid Oil Spill Response Act, would help make oil spill response faster, more effective, and more environmentally friendly. 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) Place a ban on the use of toxic dispersants for cleaning up oil spills and 3) Require OSPR to study the best available technology for oil spill clean-up and use that technology to respond to spills.

The bill passed out on a bipartisan, 8-1 vote.

“We know that if we’d had a more comprehensive approach to oil spill clean-up, we could have responded up to six hours sooner to the recent spill off Refugio State Beach,” Jackson said. “That would have made a real difference to our wildlife and our coastline. If we can contain an oil spill quickly, we can keep it from spreading and causing detrimental impacts on our wildlife and ocean waters. Local fishermen know the tides and currents, they know the area, and they have a real economic interest in ensuring that our oceans are cared for and protected.”

SB 414 will now head to the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee.

Senate Bill 788, which Jackson is jointly authoring with Senator Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg), also passed out of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee on a bipartisan, 7-2 vote today. It would ban new offshore oil drilling in a Marine Protected Area in the Santa Barbara Channel known as Tranquillon Ridge.

In 1994, the California Legislature banned any new offshore oil and gas leases when it passed the California Coastal Sanctuary Act. But a loophole in state law left Tranquillon Ridge uniquely vulnerable to offshore drilling. SB 788, the Coastal Protection Act, closes the loophole by repealing Public Resources Code 6244, effectively banning any new drilling in these state waters. In 2007, Tranquillon Ridge was designated as a Marine Protected Area because of its sensitive marine ecosystem.

“The Refugio Oil Spill has reminded us just how destructive and dirty oil can be, “ said Jackson. “While we work to wean ourselves off fossil fuels, we must work to protect Tranquillon Ridge, not only because it is one of the most important bio-regions on this planet, but because we recognize the economic importance of the coastline to our area and state. We are dependent on our coastline for the wonder and beauty it gives us and for the visitors and economic activity it generates. We must protect this area because we cannot afford to take all of these gifts for granted.”

SB 788 now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Jackson represents the 19th Senate District, which includes all of Santa Barbara County and western Ventura County.