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California won’t ban offshore drilling after legislation halts

“I think most lawmakers understand that every barrel of oil we don’t produce here under our strict environmental rules has to be imported by foreign tankers floating off our crowded ports in Iraq, Saudi Arabia or of the Ecuadorian forest,” the California Independent Petroleum Association said. CEO Rock Zierman said in a text message.

The October spill, which federal prosecutors say was exacerbated by an oil rig operator’s negligent response to what was likely an anchor hitting an undersea pipeline months earlier, is the second major leak in Californian waters in six years. This week, the company linked to the 2015 Refugio Beach oil spill in Santa Barbara County agreed to a $230 million settlement.

California’s modern environmental movement was spurred in part by the Santa Barbara oil spill of 1969, with Southern California’s offshore platforms still within sight of shore. And last fall, Gov. Gavin Newsom and other Democrats pledged to continue longstanding bans on offshore drilling in state waters, where the OC spill happened, despite most offshore mining occurring in federal waters.

“SB 953 happened because it didn’t work — it was going to cost the state billions of dollars for a symbolic victory,” Andrew Meredith, president of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, said in a statement. a statement. “The California Senate is rightly more concerned with actually improving the lot of workers and our environment than making headlines.”

Environmentalists took the opposite stance on the cost issue and pointed to the state’s $97.5 billion budget surplus. “We are disappointed that the Senate Appropriations Committee found the cost of protecting Orange County’s economy, environment and wildlife to be too high, even given the magnitude of the current state budget surplus,” said Judie Mancuso, president of Social Compassion in Legislation, which co-sponsored the measure.

State Sen. Dave Min’s SB 953, a Costa Mesa Democrat who represents the oil spill-affected district of OC, was stalled in the state Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday before it could pass to a floor vote. This happened despite changes to the proposal aimed at reducing opposition, such as giving operators until the end of 2024 to negotiate agreements with the state on the early termination of their leases.

Newsom’s administration had warned Min of the thorny legal and logistical issues involved in banning the activity – including how to assess what are essentially indefinite approvals to drill offshore.

Min wanted to leave that decision to the State Land Commission. SB 953 likely died because it didn’t have a specific effort price tag, said Brian Nowicki, director of California climate policy at the Center for Biological Diversity, which co-sponsored the measure.

“Offshore oil rigs need to be shut down and decommissioned, and we believe that needs to happen now,” Nowicki said in an interview. “But we have also emphasized throughout this process that these platforms have enormous responsibilities associated with them, both financial and operational, which weigh very heavily against any claims operators have to make.”

Min said in a statement that he was “proud that SB 953 has started an important and much-needed dialogue about how California can and should move away from offshore oil extraction.” The aging infrastructure of these offshore platforms means they are ticking time bombs. Another oil spill – and all the associated environmental and economic damage – is inevitable unless we act now.

The state has prepared alternative legislation, AB 2257, amid the debate over the measurement of Min. Legislation by Rep. Tasha Boerner Horvath (D-Encinitas), which advanced Thursday, would simply require the State Lands Commission to study the tax impact of a voluntary lease buyout.

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