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Freshman Rep. Salud Carbajal Uses First Bill on Bid to Ban Future Offshore Oil Drilling

On 48th anniversary of 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, congressman touts plan as way to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, create clean energy future

Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, held a news conference Saturday at Santa Barbara’s Shoreline Park to announce his first piece of legislation in Congress, a bill that would ban future oil and gas drilling off the California coast. “I am committed to reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and the great risk oil drilling off our coast presents to our environment,” he says. Click to view larger
Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, held a news conference Saturday at Santa Barbara’s Shoreline Park to announce his first piece of legislation in Congress, a bill that would ban future oil and gas drilling off the California coast. “I am committed to reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and the great risk oil drilling off our coast presents to our environment,” he says. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, on Saturday proposed legislation to prevent future oil drilling off the California coast.

The freshman lawmaker said the California Clean Coast Act, his first bill, would be introduced Monday in the Republican-controlled Congress.

The measure would permanently ban future offshore oil and gas leasing off California in the Outer Continental Shelf areas.

“I undoubtedly represent one of the most beautiful and ecologically diverse districts in Congress,” Carbajal said.

“I am committed to reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and the great risk oil drilling off our coast presents to our environment.”

His announcement coincided with the 48th anniversary of the Jan. 28, 1969, Santa Barbara oil spill, in which 100,000 barrels of crude oil spewed into the Santa Barbara Channel. At the time, it was the worst such spill in U.S. history.

More than 50 supporters attended a news conference Saturday at Santa Barbara’s Shoreline Park. Signs seen in the crowd read “No Drills, No Spills, No Kills” and “Don’t frack our future.”

Some in the crowd shouted, “We were there!” when Carbajal noted the spill anniversary.

Organizations fighting to prevent further oil development support Carbajal’s legislation.

“A historical pattern tells us the threat of another oil spill resulting from petroleum production along our coastline is imminent, no matter what safeguards are thought to be in place,” said Michael Lyons, president of Get Oil Out! Inc., which was formed in response to the ’69 spill.

Carbajal said his legislation is one step toward a cleaner, more sustainable energy future for the Central Coast and the country.

“We have seen the devastating environmental and economic threats posed by offshore oil drilling,” he said. “In California, our coastal communities, local economy and fragile ocean ecosystem can not afford another disastrous oil spill.”

Although Carbajal and his fellow Democrats hold just 193 seats in the 435-member House of Representatives, he said he is hopeful his legislation will pass.

“I’m an optimist,” he said. “This is about standing up, sending a loud message and moving forward with legislation that reflects the values and priorities of the Central Coast.”

During his speech, Carbajal expressed concern about President Donald Trump’s nomination of former ExxonMobil chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, as well as his executive orders reversing President Barack Obama’s holds on the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.

“We are entering a new and uncertain time in our nation’s history,” he said. “It is clear that our president’s priorities do not align with our Central Coast values regarding our energy, economy (and) the need to shift our energy policy to combat the devastating effects of climate change.”

Carbajal’s statement drew applause.

Linda Krop, chief counsel for the Environmental Defense Center, expressed concern and support.

“We are living in a whole new reality — show,” she said. “There are no limits to the threats from the federal administration to our environment, communities and economy, which all rely on air, water and a clean ocean.”

Carbajal said it is necessary to “pass this legislation to protect our coastal environment from further oil drilling and preserve its beauty and vibrancy for future generations.”

Members of the EDC, GOO, the Community Environmental Council and the Sierra Club support Carbajal’s bill.

Oil spills have destroyed kelp forests and rocky reefs, said Katy Davis, chairwoman of the Santa Barbara Sierra Club.

She noted the 2015 Refugio oil pipeline leak along the Gaviota coast and said the risk of potential spills is unacceptable.

“Don’t mess with our beaches,” Davis told the crowd. “It is our ocean and coastline that makes Santa Barbra special.”

Some local businesses lent their support to the effort.

“We do not need more oil in this area,” said Michael Cohen, owner of Santa Barbara Adventure Co. “As a business that is tied to the local tourism economy, we are 100 percent-dependent on a clean, beautiful and thriving environment, made possible through a green and clean economy.”

Cohen started his kayaking and outdoor touring business at Refugio State Beach, and said he felt first-hand the devastating effects from the Refugio pipeline leak.

“Its impact was appalling,” he said. “Environmentally and economically, it hurt us. Let us not increase those odds by allowing more oil leases.”

Tourism-related spending in Santa Barbara County totaled $1.5 billion last year, Cohen said, citing data from Visit Santa Barbara.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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