Floor Speech

Date: Jan. 23, 2023
Location: Washington, DC


Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Madam President, I rise today to introduce the West Coast Ocean Protection Act, legislation that would prohibit new oil or natural gas leases in federal waters off the coast of California, Oregon, and Washington.

I am pleased to be joined today by Senators Padilla, Wyden, Merkley, Murray, Cantwell, Menendez, Booker, Markey, and Sanders in introducing this bill, which is critically important to protecting the west coast from additional oil spills.

Californians know all too well the devastating effects of oil spills. In 1969, a well blowout on an offshore rig spilled an estimated 3 million gallons of crude oil into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Santa Barbara. At the time, it was the worst oil spill in U.S. history and was catastrophic to the local environment and marine life, closing beaches, harming the economy, and killing thousands of birds, fish, and marine mammals.

After the Santa Barbara disaster, California had enough. The State blocked all new offshore drilling in state waters and in 1994 enacted a permanent offshore drilling ban. Through local ordinances, congressional opposition, and Presidential moratoria, no new drilling in Federal waters off California has been allowed since 1984.

Unfortunately, Californians are still confronting the impacts from ongoing offshore drilling operations. In October 2021, a ruptured pipeline spilled more than 25,000 gallons of crude oil into the Pacific Ocean and onto the beaches of Orange County. Despite numerous alarms, operators allowed oil to flow from the leak for over 14 hours. It was absolutely devastating.

The spill covered more than 8,000 acres of the ocean's surface and required more than a week of cleanup. In that time, local businesses suffered, fisheries shuttered, and crews worked to remove harmful oil and tar balls from sensitive wildlife habitat.

Despite the harm caused to individuals and businesses in the community, the operator has been given permission to repair the pipeline and begin drilling again, exposing the California coastline to the risk of yet another accident.

California's coastal and ocean economies are engines of growth that support millions of jobs and generate significant economic activity for the State and Nation. Because of the unique nature of the west coast ocean shelf, any new potential drilling would occur near the coastline and directly threaten the environment and robust economy.

Beyond that, we are currently in the midst of a historic offshore energy transition. This past December, a successful auction was held for five offshore wind energy areas off the California coast, paving the way for a new floating wind industry. At the same time, the Federal Government has begun a programmatic review of decommissioning oil and gas platforms in the Pacific to prepare for their eventual removal. The era of offshore oil and gas production in the Pacific is coming to a close, and it is long overdue.

It is time to respect the view of California and our fellow west coast States by passing the West Coast Ocean Protection Act permanently ban offshore drilling and protect the Pacific coast for generations to come. ______