11 • 10 • 2015

Governor Signs Oil Spill Legislation

By Stefanie Sekich-Quinn


At the end of the legislative season, Governor Brown heeded your call for more structure and responsibility for offshore oil drilling in California by passing SB 414, AB 864, and SB 295. These bills are a positive start in the right direction toward oil companies being held accountable for their operations and hopefully mitigating the possibility for future tragedies such as what we all saw this year at Refugio State Beach with Plains Pipeline spilling over 140,000 gallons of crude oil onto our coastline.

In May Surfrider Foundation planned an event with Patagonia to raise awareness about the legislation.  Check out the video here, and other a great article here.

A brief overview of the bills that are now 'on books':

  • Senate Bill 414 (Jackson): will require the Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) to assess the best achievable technology for oil spill prevention, preparedness and response and update the adequacy of oil spill contingency plan regulations, to direct the Harbor Safety Committees for San Francisco Bay and Los Angeles-Long Beach to perform the first-ever quantitative vessel traffic risk assessments, to consult peer-reviewed scientific literature regarding the use of chemical dispersants and update the California Dispersant Plan accordingly, convene a taskforce of the Oil Spill Technical Advisory Committee to evaluate the feasibility of using vessels of opportunity for oil spill response, remove the penalty reduction for spilled oil that is recovered and disposed of, and coordinate with the U.S. Coast Guard on drills and exercises for marine firefighting and salvage.
  • Assembly Bill 864 (Williams): All oil contingency plans for a pipeline in environmentally sensitive areas (in state waters or the coast) must include “best available technology”, including automatic shutoff to reduce oil impacts.
  • Senate Bill 295 (Jackson): Requires annual oil pipeline inspections for all intra-state pipelines and would reestablish the State Fire Marshal’s role in requiring hydrostatic pressure tests as necessary, as well as inspecting federally regulated pipelines.  

The signing of these bills is a huge success for our California coastline, but also a success that shows just how much members of the community and the community of coastal-conscious NGOs can achieve when we work together for protection and conservation of our waters.Moving forward it is key that we, as the public, watch to see how the bills are implemented and organize to provide feedback to support the development and integration of best practices.