Rep. Salud Carbajal
Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, speaks at a news conference Friday at Santa Barbara’s Shoreline Park to celebrate Wednesday’s U.S. House passage of the Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act. The bill bans future offshore oil and gas leasing off the U.S. coasts, and includes Carbajal’s California Clean Coast Act, his first piece of legislation in Congress. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, has followed through on a campaign promise to voters to protect California’s coast, with the Democratic-led House of Representatives this week passing a ban on new offshore oil and gas leasing off the Pacific and Atlantic coastlines.

The measure, H.R. 1941, also called the Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act, is sponsored by Rep. Joe Cunningham, a South Carolina Democrat. It includes Carbajal’s California Clean Coast Act, also known as H.R. 279.

Speaking to the crowd gathered at Santa Barbara’s Shoreline Park, Carbajal called the bill bipartisan and a “major step forward.” The House approved it 238-189, with 12 of 197 Republicans supporting it. The measure still requires approval in the Republican-controlled Senate.

“This shouldn’t be a partisan issue,” Carbajal said. “This is about looking forward and realizing that our energy needs can best be met through renewable energy sources, and it’s time we look toward phasing out our fossil fuel energy reliance in our country.”

Carbajal said the legislation is crucial for Central Coast communities. It would protect communities with economies tied to clean and healthy marine and coastal ecosystems.

More than $1.9 trillion in California’s gross domestic product is dependent on the nourishing coastal region, Carbajal said. Job-creating industries and the environment are vulnerable to risks and damaging impacts of offshore oil and gas development — a longstanding issue with great importance, he said.

“We won’t compromise our values, economy, environment for offshore oil and gas drilling,” Carbajal said. “It’s 2019. We have an abundance of natural resources, renewable energy sources.

“There is no reason for us to endanger our environment and our economy anymore. Supporters of offshore oil drilling aren’t thinking about the future or well-being of our communities.”

Carbajal visited Santa Barbara on Friday afternoon to celebrate the bill’s passage in the House. He stood alongside local advocates, environmental and business leaders, and residents.

He has a history of working to protect the coastal environment and continuing his fight for the coastal economies. The California Clean Coast Act is his first legislation in Congress.

“I’m fighting to protect our coast from the dangers of offshore oil and gas drilling,” he said, adding, “We are helping to critically support our state’s economy.”

Oil spills have occurred in Santa Barbara County. The Santa Barbara Channel oil spill of 1969 spewed tens of thousands of barrels of crude in ocean waters, and the Plains All-American pipeline ruptured near Refugio State Beach on the Gaviota Coast in 2015. The 2015 cleanup costs reached about $92 million. In addition, wildlife along the coast were coated with the thick crude oil and hundreds of animals died, Carbajal said. 

He described the effects as “devastating.” 

“We have seen the toll offshore oil drilling takes on our economy, public health and our habitat,” Carbajal said, adding, “Our environment can’t endure another spill and our economy can’t afford another loss.”

In addition, the House on Wednesday passed a bill banning new offshore oil and gas drilling off the Florida Gulf Coast, Carbajal said.

President Donald Trump has pushed to expand offshore gas and oil development. His administration has reportedly delayed the release of its proposed five-year gas and oil leasing development plan.

Carbajal’s overall message to the crowd: “We will keep fighting back.”

A group of Santa Barbara-based organizations support Carbajal and his effort to protect communities from devastating effects of expanded oil and gas drilling. 

The Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act is “critical” to ensure the coast is not affected by an oil spill, said Linda Krop, chief counsel of the Environmental Defense Center in Santa Barbara. Pursuing clean renewable energy is necessary to protect the climate, environment and economy, she said. 

“This bill will restore protections for the California coast that existed for decades before (Donald) Trump’s proposed offshore leasing plan,” Krop said. “Offshore oil development is an idea whose time has passed.”

Oil drilling also requires extensive onshore infrastructure and leaves direct effects on the environment, said Ben Pitterle, the science and policy director of Santa Barbara Channelkeeper.

In attendance were Michael Lyons, president of Get Oil Out!; Dennis Allen, chairman of Allen Construction; Corley Kenna, director of global communications and public relations for Patagonia; and Sigrid Wright, CEO of the Community Environmental Council

“This bill is one hopeful step in the right direction,” Wright told about 20 people. “It’s simply untrue sacrificing the places we love is the price we pay for cheap energy.”

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.