The State Assembly Appropriations Committee passed a bill last Wednesday that will allow the state to more closely monitor the marine transport of petroleum and refined oil off the coast of California.

The Oil Transfer and Transportation Emission and Risk Reduction Act requires oil companies off the California coast to report the amount of oil they transport, the method and path of transportation, and emissions. The information provided quarterly by the oil companies will be reported at the end of the year to the state Legislature to monitor environmental impacts.

Assembly member Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) wrote the bill and introduced it in February. If the full assembly approves the bill, it will take effect on Jan. 1, 2003.

The bill will cost the State Lands Commission a one-time fee of $50,000 to fund the information service. The state will charge oil transport companies affected by the bill to make up the approximately $100,000 needed each year to cover the cost of the service.

Jackson said the primary purpose of the bill is to better estimate the amount of petroleum being moved and how it affects the environmental quality of the coastal zone.

“With the Bush Administration fighting for greater control over expanded drilling for oil off California’s coast, the result may indeed be increased oil drilling and tankering off our fragile coast,” Jackson said. “If any possibility exists that there will be an increase in the tankering of oil offshore, we need to be able to assess its impacts in order to create good policy that will protect public health and our natural resources. We should have access to the information necessary to assess the impacts and potential risks of transportation of oil off our coast.”

Jackson said the information generated from the forms is essential to future California legislation.

“I’m confident that we’ll be able to move the bill along,” said Jackson. “It’s critical to have this information to protect the coast and air quality.”

Jackson said she does not want any further oil drilling in California. But she said the bill will help the state better prepare to handle any new drilling and transporting in the future.

“We definitely do not want any further oil drilling off our coast, but we need to know what is going on. I think it is necessary to have access to this information to assess the risks involved,” she said.

The bill has met with strong opposition from oil companies operating in California, but Jackson said she does not expect the bill to cause any problems or inconvenience for the companies.

“They have the information at their fingertips,” said Jackson. “We’re just asking that they transport it to us. We don’t want to be guessing, we want to have this information.”

Carpenteria-based oil companies Veneco and Unocal could not be reached for comment.