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Huntington Beach City Council to consider supporting new offshore oil drilling ban

A cleanup crew pause after they filled and hauled bags of crude oil out of Talbert Marsh on Oct. 4.
A contracted cleanup crew pause after they filled and hauled bags of crude oil, shown at left, out of Talbert Marsh on Oct. 4.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

In the aftermath of an oil spill estimated at 25,000 gallons off the coast of Orange County that began on Oct. 1, the Huntington Beach City Council on Tuesday night will consider supporting a permanent ban on new offshore oil drilling.

The agenda item was brought forward by Mayor Kim Carr and Councilwoman Natalie Moser. It would state that the council is opposed to new offshore oil and gas drilling, fracking and other well-stimulation activities in federal and state waters off the California coast.

Additionally, Carr and Moser are asking the council to support a ban on new federal oil and gas leasing in all United States waters.

Council members met in a special meeting Oct. 4 and declared a local emergency. Though oil was largely absent from the beach in the days following the spill, and the Huntington Beach shoreline was reopened on Monday, cleanup efforts continue at the Talbert Marsh off Brookhurst Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway.

On Thursday, U.S. Coast Guard officials said they believe that the spill was close to 25,000 gallons — on the low end of earlier projections. Still, Carr said in a phone interview Thursday that supporting the offshore drilling ban was necessary.

“I think it’s something we’ve looked at before in the past,” Carr said. “But I think that now, with everything that’s happened over the past two weeks, it really shines on a light on that these platforms are aging ... The positioning of these platforms was questionable to begin with. Now, with the amount of traffic in that particular area because of the logjam at the port, these platforms are even more susceptible to damage. We need to address this head on, and really look at the economic impact.”

Laguna Beach, Newport Beach and Huntington Beach have all declared a local state of emergency related to the oil spill.

The city received about $16 million in transient occupancy tax from its hotels in 2019. But, Carr added, it received next to nothing in revenue from the oil platforms.

The city makes just $632,000 per year in oil well license taxes and pipeline franchise fees, city spokeswoman Jennifer Carey said — less than 1% of its general fund budget. She added that three oil wells at Civic Center Plaza that are city wells are in the process of being abandoned in the next few years.

“I think maybe at one time, it served its purpose,” Carr said. “But the city, our economy and our lifestyles when it comes to renewable energy, all of that has shifted over the last 30 or 40 years. These really don’t make any sense anymore. They’ve served their purpose, and now it’s time to move forward and move in a new direction.”

For those not in attendance, Tuesday’s meeting can be watched on channel HBTV-3 or online at huntingtonbeach.legistar.com. Residents may send comments on agenda items to supplementalcomm@surfcity-hb.org.

Communications received by 2 p.m. Tuesday will be distributed to the council prior to consideration of agenda-related items.

Residents are encouraged to submit comments during the meeting via Zoom, though in-person attendees will speak first. The Webinar ID is 971 5413 0528 and can be reached via the Zoom app or by calling (669) 900-6833 and entering the ID.

Individuals will be placed in a holding queue and prompted to speak when the city clerk announces their name or the last three digits of their phone number.

Time for remarks is limited to three minutes.

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