Two weeks after a ruptured pipeline led to a devastating oil spill along the Santa Barbara County coastline, a bill jointly authored by Senator Mike McGuire (D- Healdsburg) and Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) to ban new offshore oil drilling in a nearby Marine Protected Area in the Santa Barbara Channel known as Tranquillon Ridge passed off the Senate floor. The vote was 21-13.
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, which extends into state and federal waters, with reserves that are currently being tapped in federal waters from Platform Irene, 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 been a dramatic wake-up call, reminding us just how destructive and dirty oil can be, “ said Jackson. “Tranquillon Ridge is one of the most important bio-regions on the planet. It is a place of extraordinary and wonderous diversity. If there’s ever a place and time where were should commit to no new offshore drilling, it should be here, in this extraordinary place known as Tranquillon Ridge, and it should be now, when the consequences of oil – oil-covered birds and an oil-drenched coastline – are so fresh in our minds.”
“California’s coast is truly a worldwide wonder. Its natural beauty attracts 150 million visitors annually from all across the planet. It is a core part of this great state’s identity and our coastal economy is a main driver of our statewide economic engine. In the wake of last month’s devastating oil spill, we cannot afford to wait any longer to permanently ban new oil drilling off our coast,” said McGuire.
"In 1969, 35 miles of Santa Barbara County’s pristine coast was devastated by an oil slick resulting from offshore oil extraction. Yet again, the residents of my district are faced with a devastating oil spill. It’s clear that, despite assurances from the oil industry, we will continue to face tremendous environmental threat as long as we authorize offshore drilling. This bill closes an obvious loophole in the law and brings us one step closer to avoiding catastrophic events like these in the first place," said Assembly member Das Williams, D-Carpinteria, a co-author of the bill.
Over the years, oil companies have made numerous attempts to tap into Tranquillon Ridge’s offshore reserves from state waters. Since 2003, an oil development proposal has been pursued to drill into Tranquillon Ridge reserves from an onshore location at Vandenberg Air Force base.
Slant drilling from onshore into offshore waters raises significant concerns about possible oil spills, impacts on marine life, air and water pollution, and contributions to global climate change.
SB 788 now heads to the Assembly.
Last year, Jackson authored an identical bill, SB 1096. It stalled on the Assembly floor last year after facing significant opposition from the oil industry.