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Newsom ties Orange County oil spill to move away from fossil fuels

Cleanup workers in protective suits on Huntington State Beach
Cleanup workers in protective suits prepare to depart the closed Huntington State Beach as a storm approaches after an oil spill from an offshore oil platform on Monday in Huntington Beach.
(Mario Tama / Getty Images)

Gov. Gavin Newsom tied the move away from fossil fuel jobs and the need for more transparency regarding an investigation into Friday’s oil spill together at a news conference Tuesday afternoon at Bolsa Chica State Beach.

“That’s why I want to punctuate the point … it’s time once and for all to disabuse ourselves that this has to be part of our future,” Newsom said of drilling. “This is part of our past.”

Newsom pointed to Friday’s spill, which dumped between 126,000 and 144,000 gallons of crude oil between Catalina Island and Huntington Beach, as a relic of time when California depended on oil industry-based jobs.

A massive oil spill off the Orange County coast has fouled beaches and killed birds and marine life

The governor noted California now boasts more clean energy jobs versus fossil fuel-based employment.

“We moved past that debate,” he said.

Newsom was optimistic the total oil dumped outside Huntington Beach was much lower than has been estimated.

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“That’s all within a margin of the worst-case scenario that’s basically all the volume that was in the pipe,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a lot better than that.”

As for the investigation, Newsom said he understood the need to move quickly.

“I know all of us are eager to know exactly what happened when it happened, who was notified and when and that’s part of the investigation,” he added. On Monday, the governor issued a state of emergency in Orange County.

He noted at Tuesday’s news conference that the damage caused by the oil spill did not reach a threshold that would prompt asking the Biden administration for a national disaster declaration.

However, Newsom said he was confident he would receive help from the White House if needed.

“The declaration we put out yesterday was as far as we feel we can go directly with the president, but one of the great things about this president is he has an open hand, not a closed fist,” Newsom said.

The news conference included several local politicians and a vow from Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine).

“We are going to make sure that we have answers as to how this happened and to make sure we hold the responsible party accountable,” Porter said.

Officials continued frantically trying to protect ecologically sensitive shorelines. The oil has continued to move south after fouling beaches and wetlands in Huntington Beach on Sunday. While much of it remained off the coast, some washed up in Newport Beach, Laguna Beach and Dana Point, prompting officials to close harbors and large stretches of sand. State parks officials closed Bolsa Chica State Beach on Tuesday after officials observed oil in that area, which is slightly north of Huntington Beach city beaches.

The spill was initially estimated at 126,000 gallons of crude, but state and federal officials said the number could be closer to 144,000 gallons.

Coast Guard officials are flying over the spill three to four times a day to map its movement and compare it with tides, currents and winds to project the potential impact to beaches to the south.

Coast Guard officials on Tuesday confirmed reporting by The Times that the agency had first been alerted to the possibility of an oil spill off the Orange County coast on Friday evening.

Commercial divers who were hired to examine the suspected source of the leak found an area where the 17.7-mile pipeline had been displaced by about 105 feet; there was a 13-inch split along the length of the pipe. It is not clear what caused the damage to the pipeline, which allowed tens of thousands of gallons of crude to spill into the waters off Orange County.

Investigators have said they are looking into whether a ship’s anchor caused the pipe breach, but officials did not provide more information about that probe Tuesday. Divers and remote vehicle footage have confirmed that the tear is no longer leaking, officials said.


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