After Orange County oil spill, will calls to ban offshore drilling gain more momentum?

Floating barricades hold back oil from moving onto Talbert Marsh. More than 125,000 gallons of oil spilled from a pipeline about four miles offshore of Southern California's coast. The spill left a sheen over miles of ocean along the shoreline at Huntington Beach. October 4, 2021. Photo by Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY.

Before the oil spill in Orange County, Democratic Congressman Mike Levin had introduced legislation in the House that would prohibit new oil and natural gas drilling off the coast of Southern California.

“This is not just an ecological and environmental imperative, but also an economic one when you consider the huge economic impact coastal tourism has on our Southern California economy. And I think the main takeaway for me was really just a reminder that the only foolproof way to prevent these spills from occurring is by ending off-shore drilling activity off our Southern California coast altogether,” he told KCRW.

How feasible is it to end offshore drilling here? 

“The public in California has consistently been against new offshore oil development. … That said, there are these existing platforms that have entitlements for producing oil from their locations, mostly in the Santa Barbara Channel … and in the Long Beach area,” says Charles Lester, director of the Ocean and Coastal Policy Center in the Marine Science Institute at University of California, Santa Barbara. 

As for what caused this disaster — 144,000 gallons of crude oil swirling around the water, killing marine life and polluting the coastline? Investigators are looking into whether a commercial ship anchor may have pierced the pipeline. 

“A major question is who dropped the ball. Yesterday, Amplify [Energy Corp] CEO Martyn Willsher said that while there is equipment that can detect a leak, they had no indication that there was a leak,” says Rachel Becker, environment reporter for CalMatters. 

Credits

Guests:

  • Rachel Becker - environment reporter for CalMatters
  • Charles Lester - director of the Ocean and Coastal Policy Center in the Marine Science Institute at University of California, Santa Barbara