The only way to eliminate the risk of catastrophic oil spills is to stop drilling
Fossil fuel companies continue to profit from pumping oil while polluting our water and air. Our coasts take a huge hit when oil is spilled, as we are currently seeing in Southern California. Despite the long history of oil disasters, including the recent spills in Santa Barbara, San Francisco Bay and now Huntington Beach, there is still no federal or state plan for a just transition away from an economy. based on extractive fossil fuels.
We need federal action to stop offshore oil drilling and phase out extraction.
When the Trump administration threatened to open federal waters off the U.S. coast to new oil leases, people protested en masse. We knew then and we know now: when we drill, we overturn. No amount of so-called safeguards from oil companies and regulators can fix this dirty and dysfunctional industry.
We have been successful in pushing back on new Trump offshore drilling leases, but our government is still allowing new ocean drilling under existing leases. Amplify Energy – owner of the offshore pipeline that just released more than 140,000 gallons of crude oil in southern California coastal waters – intends to “start new drilling” in the same general areas over the course of for the next three months.
Oil companies get permits to drill and transport oil while promising to operate safely, and then inevitably fail. There is no way to eliminate the risk of catastrophic spills. Valves will leak, pipelines will corrode or be severed, well casings will explode – the list goes on. The only way to prevent oil disasters is to stop drilling.
The public has no way of challenging oil companies with a history of safety and environmental violations that directly threaten our livelihoods and quality of life. Most of California’s offshore drilling infrastructure is at least four decades old, and there is no transparency on how the industry plans to repair its aging pipelines. We can only stand by and wait for disaster to strike. Then we watch with anguish our fisheries and ecosystems, as well as our own health and economy, paying the price.
This latest spill is only the most visible environmental impact of oil drilling. It’s heartbreaking to see dolphins swimming through black mud, oiled birds collapsing onto the shore, dead fish washing away, and beaches emptied of surfers, swimmers and children building sandcastles. And we can’t even see the impact on plankton, the tiny plants and animals that float in ocean waters and are the basis of marine food webs that support fish, mammals, birds and of course humans. .
Agencies will try to calculate the cost of the damage, but they won’t be able to explain everything or how long the devastation will last. Oil spilled by Amplify has already traveled about 50 miles, making it as far south as Oceanside in San Diego County. The impacts of the worst oil spill in U.S. history, the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, were still being discovered 10 years after the spill. The oil spread further, sank deeper, and was lethal to more habitats than expected – the same is happening with this spill as well.
Why do we prioritize the profits of an industry over the health and safety of all? Oil from California’s offshore waters is only a tenth of 1% of all the oil pumped into the United States each day. Is it really worth the damage we have to suffer?
The problem is not just on the coast. Everywhere we look, we see government inaction to allow dangerous fossil fuel operations that harm Californians. The state has been incredibly slow to respond to campaigners demanding regulation of drilling in our neighborhoods, despite the extremely damaging and well-documented impacts of air pollution on people who live nearby. In April, the Governor of California. Gavin NewsomGavin Newsom California Becomes First State To Ban “Stealth Theft” Overnight Energy & Environment: White House To Restore Parts Of Environmental Protection Law Lifted By Trump Equilibrium / Sustainability – Presented By American Petroleum Institute – NASA to Unleash ‘Planetary Defense’ Technology Against Asteroid PLUS (D) called for new protections, but the responsible state agency missed every deadline and no new protections were enacted. Los Angeles County has taken a more concrete step, finally adopting a plan this year to revoke active drilling licenses as soon as legally permitted under applicable state laws. But it could still be years before we see any real change.
Inaction adds up to a great loss for the United States; it diverts our investment from well-paying jobs into clean energy and technical innovation, and ultimately makes people more vulnerable to the increasingly severe impacts of climate change.
Federal action is needed to immediately stop offshore drilling and prevent the next tragedy in our coastal waters. What our government decides to do now will have an impact on future generations, and history will not look favorably on politicians who side with a dirty and dying industry.
Shelley Luce is CEO of Heal the Bay, a non-profit environmental organization fighting for clean and healthy coastal waters.