A bill by state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, to ban offshore oil drilling from an area of state waters in the Santa Barbara Channel known as Tranquillon Ridge stalled on the Assembly floor Tuesday evening, effectively killing the bill for the year.
The vote was 29-36.
“I’m disappointed in what happened tonight, but remain committed to protecting this area of our Santa Barbara coastline from the impacts of new offshore oil drilling for the long haul,” Jackson said. “I will continue to pursue avenues to protect Tranquillon Ridge, which inspires us with its beauty and biological diversity, and helps drive our local economy with tourism and hospitality jobs and thousands of visitors to our area.”
“I’m proud to be a co-author of SB 1096, because I believe that protecting our sensitive coastal habitat is of the utmost importance to our economy and our environment,” said Assemblymember Das Williams, D-Carpinteria. “I will continue to work with Sen. Jackson to fight for those protections.”
In 1994, declaring that “offshore oil and gas production in certain areas of state waters poses an unacceptably high risk of damage and disruption to the marine environment of the state,” the California Legislature banned any new offshore oil and gas leases when it passed the California Coastal Sanctuary Act. But a loophole in state law left Tranquillon Ridge, which extends into state and federal waters, with reserves that are currently being tapped in federal waters from Platform Irene, uniquely vulnerable to offshore drilling.
Senate Bill 1096 would have repealed this loophole, found in Public Resources Code 6244.
“Even the slightest chance of an oil spill in a Marine Protected Area far outweighs any potential benefit to the state,” Jackson said.
The bill had the support of dozens of environmental groups, including the Environmental Defense Center, its sponsor, but faced significant opposition from the oil industry.
Over the years, oil companies have made numerous attempts to tap into Tranquillon Ridge’s offshore reserves from state waters. Since 2003, an oil development proposal has been pursued by Sunset and Exxon to drill into Tranquillon Ridge reserves from an onshore location at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
Slant drilling from onshore into offshore waters raises significant concerns about possible oil spills, impacts on marine life, air and water pollution, and contributions to global climate change.
In 2007, Tranquillon Ridge was designated as a Marine Protected Area because of its sensitive marine ecosystem. Fishing, as well as public entry, is restricted there.
In 1969, 35 miles of Santa Barbara County’s pristine coastline was devastated by an oil slick resulting from offshore oil extraction. This disaster gave rise to the modern environmental movement and the yearly international celebration, Earth Day.
— Lisa Gardiner is the communications director for state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson.