October 8, 2021
CEO Note: California oil spill puts spotlight on bill to end new offshore drilling
BY: Andy Sharpless
Last weekend, we learned of alarming reports of a major oil spill off the coast of Southern California. Early reports confirmed that a pipeline ruptured near Huntington Beach, unleashing at least 126,000 gallons of oil into the Pacific Ocean. Already there are fishing closures, local tourism is taking a hit, dead birds and fish are washing ashore and the beaches are closed. Make no mistake, the oil and gas industry brought us here.
This is not the first time we have seen oil on our shores. In California alone, there was the Santa Barbara oil spill of 1969 and then the Refugio spill of 2015. And of course, the 2010 explosion of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, which killed 11 workers and spewed more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf, was the largest environmental disaster in American history. The fact remains: where they drill, they spill. Our elected officials know this. Yet time and time again they allow the fossil fuel industry, the same industry driving planet-destroying climate change, to pursue dirty and dangerous offshore drilling.
This is why Oceana began campaigning more than 10 years ago to stop the expansion of offshore oil and gas drilling. Since then, we’ve held off two presidents who tried to do just that. Now we have a chance to permanently protect our coasts and prohibit any future offshore drilling leases in the Pacific, as well as the Atlantic and Eastern Gulf of Mexico. The language to do this is in place in the bill being considered by Congress right now – it’s called the “Build Back Better Act.” However, not enough Senators and Representatives in Congress are demanding that permanent offshore drilling protections make it into law.
If our elected officials are going to prevent the next oil spill and combat climate change, they need to stand up to the fossil fuel industry immediately. Stopping the expansion of offshore oil and gas drilling is the first step. An Oceana analysis found that permanently banning the sale of new leases for offshore drilling would prevent more than 19 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions — the equivalent of taking every car in the nation off the road for 15 years — or nearly three times the total annual emissions in the U.S. That would translate into the prevention of more than $720 billion in damages to people, property, and the environment — comparable to more than the annual GDP of a major city like Washington D.C., San Francisco, or Atlanta.
The oil spill in Southern California was preventable but the people in power failed to protect us. It is time for the government to transition away from oil and gas, which harms our oceans, mars our coastlines, and leads to climate change, and instead build a clean energy economy. Now is the moment – our elected officials have a chance to take a big step forward and end the expansion of offshore drilling once and for all. Please join us in urging your Members of Congress to fight for protections against offshore drilling in the final version of the Build Back Better Act that is sent to President Biden’s desk. You can do so here: oceana.org/ActNow.
Thank you for joining us in fighting against offshore drilling.