Originally published in The Hill
BY REP. MIKE LEVIN (D-CALIF.), SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN (D-CALIF.), REPS. JARED HUFFMAN (D-CALIF.), AND ALAN LOWENTHAL (D-CALIF.)
The oil spill off the coast of Southern California is an ecological and economic disaster. Estimates suggest that tens of thousands of gallons of oil have spilled from an offshore pipeline, and it has spread across the coasts of three counties. Dead birds and fish washed ashore, local beaches were closed, boaters were being asked to stay away, and all fishing was curtailed for the area.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time this has happened, and it won’t be the last as long as offshore drilling continues off our coast. Previous spills, including the 1969 Santa Barbara blowout and the Refugio Beach spill of 2015, released more than 4 million gallons of oil into the Pacific Ocean.
As Californians know, coastal tourism and recreation help drive our local economies. That’s why oil spills have huge economic consequences. According to Oceana, fishing, tourism, and recreation along California’s coastline supports nearly 600,000 jobs and roughly $42.3 billion in economic activity.
We cannot afford to keep putting our environment and coastal economy at risk, especially at a time when we should be transitioning away from fossil fuels. The first and most obvious step toward avoiding the next drilling disaster and protecting our coasts is to ban new offshore drilling. Thousands of jobs in coast-dependent industries like tourism, recreation, and fishing are hanging in the balance.
With this in mind, we have worked to include a provision in the Build Back Better Act, the reconciliation bill currently being debated in Congress, that would end new federal oil and gas leasing off the California coast, and we urge our colleagues in Congress to retain that provision. We have previously led legislation to the same effect, and now it’s time to send this legislation to the president’s desk.
We know there will be some who argue that drilling off the coast of California is necessary for our energy needs, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. According to data available from the Department of Interior, the annual oil production off California’s coast was about one-third of what the nation produces in a single day. Limiting drilling off the California coast would not undermine our domestic fuel supply – it’s barely a drop in the bucket.
We also know that preventing offshore drilling is broadly popular, as Americans see the environmental and economic impacts of recurring oil spills. More than 390 coastal cities and towns have formally opposed drilling along their coastline, as has every governor of the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. Alliances representing more than 50,000 businesses have also expressed their opposition to new drilling.
Congress has a crucial opportunity to end new offshore oil and gas leasing in the Build Back Better Act. We are confident our colleagues will support us in passing this commonsense legislation to protect our coastal communities.
Mike Levin represents California’s 49th District, Dianne Feinstein is the senior senator from California, Jared Huffman represents the 2nd District of California, and Alan Lowenthal represents the 47th District of California.