Offshore Oil Drilling Ban OKd by Senate : Environment: Measure affecting entire state coast is narrowly approved and sent to Assembly. It does not include existing leases or wells.
The state Senate approved legislation Saturday that would permanently ban new offshore oil drilling along the entire 1,100-mile length of the California coast, replacing the current patchwork of long- and short-term restrictions.
The drilling ban bill (AB 2444), by Assemblyman Jack O’Connell (D-Carpinteria), was approved on a 22-13 vote, one more than the simple majority needed for passage. It was returned for a final vote in the Assembly, which approved it earlier with no votes to spare.
Gov. Pete Wilson has not taken a position on the bill, but intends to carefully review it, said spokesman Paul Kranhold.
The bill would not affect current leases or existing pumping operations.
The Senate voted as it met in an unusual Saturday session to grapple with hundreds of bills and other unfinished business in preparation for adjournment of the two-year session Wednesday. The Assembly recessed Friday and will reconvene Monday.
O’Connell, supported by conservationist groups, maintains that a permanent ban embodied in his Coastal Sanctuary Act of 1994 is necessary because offshore oil development poses a significant hazard to the coast.
Sen. Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena), who represents the picturesque North Coast region, noted that virtually all of the state’s coastline has been off limits to petroleum drilling because of a “confusing hodgepodge” of permanent and temporary restrictions, some of which will expire next year and others in 2003.
The temporary restrictions, he said, must be replaced by a permanent, uniform ban that stretches from Mexico to the Oregon border. “The production of oil and gas must not come at the expense of our state’s greatest asset, our coastline,” Thompson said.
Senate Leader Bill Lockyer (D-Hayward) called the measure a landmark accomplishment of this legislative session. The vote broke generally along party lines with Democrats and independents favoring the bill and Republicans opposing it.
The measure would take effect Jan. 1 and apply to new offshore drilling leases in state waters as well as to the expired leases. Among the regions whose temporary bans are scheduled to expire Jan. 1 are tidal and submerged lands off the coast of Santa Barbara and Los Angeles counties and northern Orange County.
Critics of the bill, which was opposed by the oil industry, warned that a ban on new drilling could deprive state government of potential new revenue at a time that budgets are shrinking.
Sen. Don Rogers (R-Tehachapi), whose district includes parts of oil-rich Kern County, warned that prohibiting offshore drilling would increase the risk of disastrous oil spills because of reliance on oil tankers. He said more oil tankers would be calling at California ports and this would heighten the possibility of collisions and spills.