Fifty years ago, Union Oil Platform A was nothing more than an oil platform off the coast of Santa Barbara — that is, until its well suffered a blowout. For nearly 20 years, the 1969 Santa Barbara Oil Spill was the largest oil spill in American history.
Today, lawmakers in California and across the U.S. are battling the oil industry with tough legislation to hold the oil industry accountable and prevent future environmental disasters.
Two of Santa Barbara’s representatives, Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson and Congressman Salud Carbajal, both recently drafted new legislation in commemoration of the 1969 Santa Barbara Oil Spill.
Both lawmakers delivered speeches on Sunday at Arlington Theater for an event hosted by the Community Environmental Council that focused on remembering the Oil Spill in 1969.
On Monday, Congressman Carbajal, a state representative from California’s 24th Congressional District, announced the reintroduction of the California Clean Coast Act, a bill that would prohibit offshore oil and gas leasing throughout the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), according to a press release.
“We all remember the devastation our community saw after the 1969 Oil Spill. It did damage to the ecosystem, the environment and the economy,” Carbajal said in an interview with the Nexus.
Carbajal is hopeful for his new bill, noting that the bill has a better chance of passing since it was submitted to a congress where a Republican majority is no longer in effect.
“[In] the last congress, I was a minority, and the Republican lead leadership did not allow this to move forward. I’m very excited about the prospects this time around,” Carbajal said.
Of the 53 representatives in California, 42 have co-signed California Clean Coast Act, also known as HR 279, reflecting current sentiments to orient the state toward renewable energy and away from oil and gas.
“These are not abstract issues for the Central Coast and Santa Barbara. These are issues that we’ve experienced and to us, it’s tangible,” Carbajal said. “We need to wean ourselves and become less dependent on fossil fuels and invest in renewable energy.”
In addition to HR 279, Carbajal has also proposed legislation on the subject of renewable energy.
“Last term I introduced — which I am going to reintroduce again — the Renewable Energy opportunities legislation, which provides tax incentives to the business community so they invest in renewable energy technology.”
The California Clean Coast Act would only be applied to the coastline and waters of California.
To address California lands, Jackson, a state senator representing Santa Barbara’s 19th district, introduced Senate Bill 169, a new piece of legislation dealing with pipeline safety requirements, according to a press release.
The current regulations in place allow pipeline operations in California to exploit loopholes within the state’s legal system, according to Jackson.
“If you are operating a pipeline to full capacity, you have to follow California’s law. If, however, you are only operating to partial capacity, you don’t have to follow California law,” Jackson said in an interview with the Nexus.
SB 169 would require that all pipelines in California, regardless of their operation capacity, follow the same regulations, Jackson said.
The bill would also ensure pipeline inspectors have the tools necessary to verify that all pipeline operations in the state are in compliance with the law.
Jackson is hopeful that SB 169 will pass.
“I’m confident that the legislature recognizes the importance of protecting against these spills,” Jackson said.
However, Jackson still holds some doubt about the fate of Carbajal’s legislation.
She said that Carbajal’s “aspirational” bill would likely face legislative friction if it ever made an appearance on President Trump’s desk. However, she said the next couple of years could provide a less hostile environment for green legislation.
“If we have a positive result in 2020, this is certainly the kind of thing that we should be pushing from,” Jackson said.
After previous attempts to remediate pipeline safety requirements through legislation, Jackson said she believes that there is only one definitive way to end disasters like this: “If you don’t drill, you can’t spill.”
Simren Verma contributed reporting.
A version of this article appeared on p. 1 of the Jan. 31, 2019 edition of the Daily Nexus.
Max Abrams is an asst. news editor at the Daily Nexus and can be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.