Lawmakers propose tougher rules after oil pipeline spill

Lawmakers propose tougher rules after oil pipeline spill
A beach cleanup crew at the shoreline of Refugio State Beach in Goleta on June 1. Lawmakers have proposed tougher rules to prevent spills. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Alarmed by last month's oil spill off Refugio State Beach, two lawmakers from Santa Barbara County announced Tuesday that they would propose requiring annual pipeline inspections, quicker responses to leaks and better prevention technology.

They also vowed to try again to bar oil drilling along an environmentally sensitive portion of the coast.

State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) said the recent spill exposed flaws that she and Assemblyman Das Williams (D-Santa Barbara) would address.

"It has reminded us of just how precious our coastline and our wildlife are and how vulnerable we are," Jackson told reporters in a telephone conference call.

The pipeline operator said it inspected the line recently but the results were not back yet. Before that, the last full inspection was in 2012.

Jackson said she was dismayed to learn that the pipeline "was not inspected frequently enough." Her bill, not yet introduced, would require annual inspections, she said.

The senator said she would offer another proposal to require two large oil-skimming machines to be pre-positioned along the Santa Barbara County coast and allow local commercial fishermen to be deputized immediately to help react to a future spill.

That bill would also create a moratorium on the use of dispersants, which Jackson called "toxic and ineffective," until the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency completes a study of the chemicals.

The senator also plans to continue to push for legislation that is scheduled for a Senate vote Wednesday to bar offshore oil drilling in sensitive areas of Tranquillon Ridge off the coast of northern Santa Barbara County. A similar measure died in the Legislature last year amid strong oil industry opposition.

Noting that the ruptured pipeline did not have an automatic shut-off valve, Williams said he would craft legislation to require pipeline companies to use the best technology available in environmentally sensitive areas.

"I'm deeply saddened and angered to see one of California's most beloved beaches and campgrounds closed," he said.

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