Feinstein in the News

By Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.)

During this week that we celebrate Earth Day and reflect on the one-year anniversary of the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, it is the perfect time to sharpen our focus on environmental priorities. As some 200 million gallons of oil were sent gushing into the Gulf of Mexico last year, destroying marine life and crippling the local economy, all I kept thinking was: we cannot let this happen to California’s Sonoma Coast.

Oil companies have made no secret, however, of their designs on this coastline in my district. That is why one of my top legislative priorities is the expansion, by more than 2,000 nautical miles, of the local marine sanctuaries that provide permanent federal protection from oil and gas exploration.

My bill, The Gulf of the Farallones and Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuaries Modification and Protection Act (H.R. 192), would extend our existing sanctuary boundaries further and deeper into the Pacific. And it would also branch northward, to shield the entire Sonoma County coast, an area the size of Delaware.

I first introduced this bill in 2004. It passed the House and cleared the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation in the 111th Congress. It has the strong backing of California’s U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein. The only meaningful opposition comes from national oil interests and their allies in Congress, outsiders who want to drill at any cost. It enjoys virtually unanimous grass-roots support from environmentalists, fishing interests, state and local governments, university scientists, business leaders and the community at-large.

This consensus exists because these waters are a truly unique natural treasure that defines life in the North Bay, across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. Not only are they exquisitely beautiful, they are also some of the world’s most biologically abundant and diverse. They are a magnificent laboratory for scientists and researchers.

They are home to hundreds of species of birds, migratory whales, sea lions and seals, and thousands of varieties of fish. They truly are “Yosemites in the sea”, as one of our local environmental advocates has put it. And the Sonoma coast is one of the most nutrient- rich oceanic areas on the planet – home to 20 percent of the world’s fish even though it represents only 1 percent of the world’s ocean waters.

This is more than just a matter of environmental urgency; thousands of jobs hang in the balance too. The local fishermen support my sanctuary bill because their livelihoods depend on a rich harvest that’s only possible in a thriving marine ecosystem. Plus our local tourism economy – our restaurants, hotels, shops and wineries -- have an enormous stake here. I can assure you that no one is going to take a vacation to come see oil derricks on the Sonoma Coast.

In light of the catastrophic Gulf spill of a year ago, we must all work overtime to find creative environmental solutions. We must, for example, invest more heavily in research and development of technologies that help us prevent, respond to and mitigate oil spills – another legislative priority of mine. But the best way to avoid spills is not to drill in the first place, especially not in special places that cannot be replaced and must not be defiled, in waters that contribute so much to the ecological life of the nation and the world.

California’s Sonoma Coast is just such a place. We must be its vigilant guardians. I will continue to push aggressively for my legislation (H.R. 192), to more than double the size of the Cordell Bank and Gulf of the Farallones Marine Sanctuaries – it is an environmental and an economic imperative, one that we owe to future generations.