Orange County oil spill reveals again the risks of offshore drilling, say heads of state

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Although San Diego County was spared the worst effects of the oil spill off Huntington Beach, it had to prepare for the possibility that the leaking oil could spill south, the chairman of the Board said Thursday. Supervisory Board, Nathan Fletcher.

“We were separated by distance from the spill and by time,” Fletcher told the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water. “It was that moment that gave us the opportunity to act early.”

County staff closely monitored weather conditions in the days following the spill, which was reported on October 2, and placed booms in sensitive San Diego County lagoons, including Agua Hedionda, in Carlsbad, where Poseidon Water produces desalinated water for the area, says Fletcher.

Crews also collected tarballs that washed up on beaches in North County, which have not closed.

“While we have been hit by tarballs… we haven’t seen the oil reflections and haven’t seen the same devastating long-term effects on our beach economies” as Orange County, said said Fletcher.

Fletcher was part of a panel of California elected officials who testified about the response to the oil spills.

The oil spill was reported after a ruptured pipeline from an oil rig spilled approximately 25,000 gallons of crude oil into southern California waters. The spill forced beaches to close and deposited masses of crude oil along the coast at Newport Beach, Laguna Beach and Huntington Beach, killing fish and birds and threatening sensitive wetlands.

State Senator Dave Min, D-Irvine, said offshore drilling produces only a fraction of one percent of the country’s oil, but puts the economy, culture and way of life at risk coastal $ 44 billion from the state.

“Our residents are passionate about their beaches,” said Huntington Beach Mayor Kim Carr. “I like to say that we have salt water flowing through our veins.”

She said the city gained valuable experience from a smaller spill that occurred after a boat capsized in its port in 2020. Spurred on by the experience, Huntington Beach applied for grants for equipment emergency response to an oil spill and, just months before the recent spill, received the dams. it contained the oil from that spill.

Fletcher and other officials who spoke on Thursday said no preparation could prevent all future spills, and the state should take action to end offshore drilling.

“The reality is that the risk has never been worth the reward of offshore drilling,” said Fletcher. “As long as drilling is cleared, we’re going to see these leaks and spills.”

State Senator Brian Jones, R-Santee, called for a full investigation into the spill and how it could have been avoided, but warned members not to jump to conclusions about who was to blame .

“While the oil company certainly has some responsibility in this matter, I think it’s important for us not to put all the blame on the industry until we know all the facts,” Jones said.

San Diego County also announced Thursday that the US Small Business Administration is offering low interest federal disaster loans small businesses economically affected by the oil spill. The county has opened a virtual center to help businesses apply for these loans.

Phil Willon of the Los Angeles Times contributed to this story.


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