In a surprise policy shift this January, the federal administration announced that it was going to open almost all US coastal waters to offshore oil drilling. Based on Baykeeper’s decades of experience dealing with oil spills in San Francisco Bay, we know if this action moves forward, it will pose a real ecological threat to our spectacular shoreline resources and sensitive wildlife.
That’s why Baykeeper is supporting new state legislation that would help protect San Francisco Bay and the Bay Area’s coastal shoreline from the impacts of offshore oil drilling.
While California can’t directly regulate federal oil and gas leases in federal waters off the state’s coast, the state does have authority to limit the supporting oil infrastructure within California waters.
Senate Bill 834, and a companion bill, Assembly Bill 1775, would protect California’s coastline and waterways by banning new pipelines, piers, wharves, and other oil infrastructure that would facilitate the transport through state waters of oil drilled under federal offshore leases.
Offshore oil drilling is a serious threat to the Bay. If drilling is allowed off the coast of California, tankers would likely bring that crude oil to one or more of the Bay Area’s five refineries. Each tanker trip increases the risk of an oil spill in the Bay along the way. And each time oil is transferred between a tanker and a refinery, the potential for oil to be spilled in the Bay goes up.
The newly proposed legislation would place limits on the oil industry’s Bay Area infrastructure. These limits would help protect San Francisco Bay from any increase in tanker traffic that might result from new offshore oil drilling in federal waters.
Moreover, refining crude oil is an inherently dirty process that produces air and water pollution, including tiny toxic particles that fall from the air into the Bay and nearby neighborhoods. Refineries also use Bay water to cool their industrial processors, releasing heated water, along with other pollutants, back into the Bay. Although these industrial processes and discharges are regulated, the regulations are not perfect. Harmful pollution inevitably makes its way into the Bay and Bay Area communities, and any increase in Bay Area oil refining would result in an increase in this local pollution.
SB 834 was introduced by Senators Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara and Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens; AB 1775 was introduced by Assembly Members Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance and Monique Limón, D-Santa Barbara. Baykeeper is appreciative that these state legislators acted quickly in response to this threat.
The legislation will protect not only San Francisco Bay, but also the entire California coast from expansion of pipelines and increases in tanker traffic that would result from new offshore oil drilling in federal waters. In coalition with many other statewide environmental organizations, Baykeeper will advocate for these bills during the upcoming state legislative committee and hearing process.