Huntington Beach

Ban on offshore drilling backed

CLEANUP CREW patrols the beach after the recent oil spill (OC Tribune photo).

By Zia Zografos 

The City of Huntington Beach is pushing for a ban on all new, statewide, offshore oil and gas drilling. The city council voted 5-1 Tuesday night to adopt a resolution with its formal support, with Councilmember Mike Posey voting no and Councilmember Erik Peterson being absent.

The majority of the council argued that this was an adequate first step towards transitioning into a future of alternative fuel. The resolution also gave the city’s support to President Joe Biden’s request to ban new federal oil and gas sales in all U.S. waters.

Mayor Kim Carr and Councilmember Natalie Moser brought forth the item, stating that the recent oil spill off the Huntington Beach coast damaged wildlife habitats and coastal infrastructure, disrupted local business, and interrupted recreational activities.

The council majority supported taking preventative steps to head off another oil spill.

Dozens of public commenters also voiced their support to put a stop to drilling off the coast of Huntington Beach. Some echoed the same sentiment that oil drilling poses a threat to the city’s delicate coastal life, and that spills such as this one will continue to impact the city’s local economy.

Bill Hickman spoke on behalf of the Surf Rider Foundation stating, “We’re really lucky it wasn’t worse than it was. It’s almost inevitable there are going to be more oil spills with the aging infrastructure and pipelines that are out there.”

Although the oil spill was not as severe as originally anticipated, Councilmember Moser argued that the city merely got lucky, and it is only a matter of time before a more catastrophic spill occurs.

Moser also stated that maintaining the oil rigs is more expensive than it is worth.

“We don’t produce very much…There’s a lot of subsidies that are being paid to just have those continue,” said Moser. “And ultimately, our businesses and our communities are subsidizing with the loss of business from oil spills. Spills are an accident, a leak is not. The leaking is happening all the time…I don’t want us to be lucky again.”

Carr furthered this point, stating that the cost benefit is no longer worth it when renewable energy sources are on the rise. In Huntington Beach specifically, oil revenue is less than $700,000 a year, according to Carr.

The Santa Barbara spill in 1969 which poured out three million gallons of crude oil, and the Refugio State Beach spill in May of 2015 which spilled 142,800 gallons, were both noted as oil spills that greatly impacted the Orange County coastline and as additional instances to push for the ban.

Mayor Pro Tem Barbara Delgleize argued that the city should be doing more beyond just drafting their support for the ban. Delgleize stated that the city should attempt to repair their faulty pipelines which consistently leak oil.

“There should have been an emergency turn-off,” said Delgleize. “When I saw that picture of the rusted pipe … there’s thinking that maybe the pipe was dragged quite a bit. They shouldn’t even be near any kind of rig. Just being through this, those big ships, you really need to know what you’re doing. I’d like to see more focus on repairing what’s in our waters.”

Posey voted no on the item, stating that the council’s goals to move away from their dependence on oil is not currently realistic.

“We don’t have any jurisdiction. These leases are granted by the state, by the U.S government, not by Huntington Beach,” said Posey.

However, the majority of the council argued that the city does have an influence to start enacting change. Councilmember Rhonda Bolton stated, “The opinions of the localities do count. We do have influence … we are the folks who get impacted by leaks and spills. We couldn’t get definitive information on how much was spilled, there were days and days before we got confirmation that the leak had been stopped…Nothing has changed since 2010.”

Huntington Beach is now the 100th city to support a ban on offshore oil and gas drilling.

The council also provided an update to the oil spill response efforts. Fire Chief Scott Haberle stated that the beaches currently have little tar on them, and that water testing is being conducted two times a week. All beaches are now open. However, fishing is still not recommended, and it may take four to six weeks until fishing is welcomed again.

 

 

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