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Environmentalists call on Rep. Michelle Steel to support offshore oil drilling ban

Michelle Steel, left, speaks with UCI Health Newport Beach practice manager Mark Gonzalez in August 2020.
Michelle Steel, left, then the Orange County Board of Supervisors chairwoman, speaks with UCI Health Newport Beach practice manager Mark Gonzalez in August 2020. Environmentalists called on U.S. Rep. Michelle Steel to support cessation of offshore drilling, as well as climate change legislation, during a news conference in front of her Huntington Beach office Tuesday.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

Environmentalists called on U.S. Rep. Michelle Steel to support cessation of offshore drilling, as well as climate change legislation, during a news conference in front of her Huntington Beach office Tuesday.

Steel is a Republican representing California’s 48th District, which includes Huntington Beach, Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, Fountain Valley and Laguna Beach.

The California coastline has felt the effects of the Oct. 1 oil spill off the coast of Huntington Beach that dumped up to an estimated 131,000 gallons of oil into the water.

State Sen. Dave Min and U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein, among others, have called for an end to offshore drilling.

Feinstein introduced the West Coast Ocean Protection Act, which would permanently ban oil and gas drilling in federal waters off the West Coast, in the Senate earlier this year. Rep. Jared Huffman, who represents the 2nd District, introduced the bill in the House.

Steel, who has asked Gov. Gavin Newsom and President Joe Biden for disaster relief, has not made similar comments against offshore drilling. On Tuesday, she introduced legislation to address the backlog of ships along the coastline, the Stopping Hazardous Incidents in the Pacific (SHIP) Act.

Reports have indicated the spill might have been caused by an anchor that hooked the pipeline.

Aaron McCall, a Costa Mesa resident who is the federal advocacy coordinator for California Environmental Voters, organized Tuesday’s event at Steel’s office. It was also attended by community members, as well as representatives from the Surfrider Foundation and Oceana.

Harley Rouda, the first Democrat to represent the 48th District before being defeated by Steel in 2020, also spoke.

“We need to find ways to reduce carbon emissions and pollution,” McCall said.

“Michelle Steel’s office has not been interested in that from the get-go, and now we’re seeing this completely preventable and predictable emergency happen. The only way to stop it is by investing in infrastructure that shifts away from fossil fuels.”

Steel, through a representative, did not address questions about an offshore oil drilling ban. She spent Tuesday morning delivering doughnuts to the staff of the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach.

The SHIP Act Steel introduced would ban cargo idling or anchoring 24 nautical miles off the Orange County coast. The ban would take effect immediately for up to 180 days, or until Biden declares the backlog in the ports is over.

“Cargo ships idling for months off the Orange County coastline have become an environmental and public health crisis,” Steel said in a statement.

“It’s time to get the ports working again and get these ships moving and out of our waters. This crisis could have been prevented and it’s important that we protect our waters and coastline.”

Rouda, who has already pledged that he will be running against Steel again in 2022, said in a statement that he would support an offshore oil drilling ban.

“Our leaders must hold oil companies to account and stop catastrophes such as this from ever happening again,” he said.

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