Governor Jerry Brown signed three bills on Oct. 8 authored by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson and Assemblymember Das Williams in response to the May 2015 Refugio Beach Oil Spill.
Jackson’s bills, Senate Bill 295 (SB 295) and Senate Bill 414 (SB 414), increase the frequency of mandatory pipeline inspections and shorten the response time to oil spills, respectively. SB 295 requires the State Fire Marshal to perform annual oil pipeline inspections, rather than every two years. Under SB 414, the Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) must research the best utilization of commercial fisherman and other mariners as quick responders for oil spill containment. SB 414 also requires OSPR report chemical dispersant use to the legislature and research prevention and containment of oil spills.
Williams’ Assembly Bill 684 (AB 684) implements more efficient spill-prevention technology such as automatic shutoff systems, leak detection technology and sectionalized block valves in sensitive coastal environments. According to the bill, installation of these technologies will be complete by Jan. 1, 2018, and the State Fire Marshal will have adopted the necessary regulations to effectively assess risk analysis of pipelines by July 1, 2017.
Jackson said she believes more frequent pipeline inspection could have prevented the Refugio Beach Oil Spill, as many pipeline failures are largely due to damage from chemicals added to oil for faster transport.
“As oil has become more viscous and more problematic, there are more corrosive chemicals being used to thin it out so it can be transported more easily, and these are having a tremendous and detrimental effect on the pipelines,” Jackson said.
Williams said while the three bills are a “step forward” in protecting the environment from oil spill damage, oil production still poses as threat to surrounding areas.
“As long as we have oil production in environmentally sensitive areas like those in Santa Barbara County, we live under threat of damaging oil spills,” Williams said in an email.
UCSB’s Environmental Affairs Board (EAB) Co-chair and third-year computer science and environmental studies double major Nicholas Frey said the bills are only temporary solutions to the greater problem of fossil fuel dependence.
“While they were good, it was just kind of putting on a little Band-Aid to a much larger problem,” Frey said. “I would’ve wanted to see more transitioning out of fossil fuels and actually removing said pipelines.”
UCSB CALPIRG campus organizer Alena Simon said California needs further legislation that transitions it toward alternative energy.
“I think we’d like to see California go 100 percent renewable and not actually rely on these dirty fossil fuels at all,” Simon said.
Williams also said California should seek renewable energy “as rapidly as possible.”
“We can work to make pipelines safer, but as long as there is oil drilling there will be oil spills,” Williams said.
EAB Co-chair and second-year environmental studies major Chris Berry said he hopes legislators continue to pass legislation to impose tighter controls on the fossil fuel industry prior to another oil spill, rather than in response.
“It stinks for me that we have to have these spills before we can pass tougher legislature on oil and fossil fuel industries,” Berry said. “I’m glad to see them passed, and I think frequent checks will be better … because it’s never if a spill’s going to happen, it’s when, so hopefully they can be checked and prevented.”