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State Senator David Min Introduces Bill to Ban Offshore Drilling in California Waters

by Dan Bacher
Senator Dave Min announced the introduction of SB 559, legislation that would end offshore oil drilling under existing leases in California state waters.
SACRAMENTO, CA — While California officials and corporate media continue to claim the state is the nation’s “green leader,” offshore oil and gas drilling proceeds in state and federal waters off the Southern California Coast.

There has been a moratorium on the approval of new leases off the coast of California for the past 40 years, but oil production has continued and hundreds of new and reworked permits have been approved under the Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom administrations under existing leases first issued in the 1960s and 1970s.

As a result, large oil spills like the Refugio Beach Oil Spill of 2015 and the Huntington Beach oil spill of 2021 have periodically fouled California waters and killed and injured fish and wildlife.

To change this situation, Senator Dave Min on Feb. 16 announced the introduction of SB 559, legislation that would end offshore oil drilling under existing leases in California state waters. Currently there are three offshore platforms producing oil in state waters and 27 platforms in federal waters. State waters are those with within 3 miles from shore, while federal waters are those outside of the 3 mile line.

Senator Min in February 2022 introduced a similar bill, Senate Bill 953, that would have ended all drilling in California state waters by the end of 2023, but a gusher of millions of dollars of oil industry lobbying money into the Legislature, combined with Big Oil campaign contributors to oil industry-friendly legislators, prevented the bill from getting out of committee.

SB 559 would require that the State Lands Commission “negotiate in good faith with oil and gas producers to bring about shared agreements that would voluntarily relinquish all leases under state jurisdiction by December 31, 2025.”

 “If a relinquishment agreement is not made by this date, SB 559 would require the Commission to terminate these leases and cease production of oil at the state’s three remaining platforms that operate off the Coast of Orange County,” according to a statement from Senator Min’s Office.

“After the 2021 oil spill off the coast of Huntington Beach, I promised I would fight to end offshore drilling once and for all,” said Min. “Today, I am proud to say that I am continuing to try and keep that promise, Offshore drilling threatens our vibrant marine ecosystems and the nearly $2 trillion a year generated by our coastal economy.”

“The meager benefits of offshore oil production do not justify the enormous risks they pose to our coastal communities. SB 559 offers a thoughtful, measured approach that will end offshore drilling in state waters once and for all,” Min argued.

The October 2021 oil spill off the coast of Huntington Beach discharged at least 25,000 gallons of crude over a radius that stretched 750 miles south to the Mexican Border.

The total cost incurred by the State of California for cleanup is $2,813,205, according to the Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR). In addition to response costs, OSPR has incurred $288,644 in ongoing Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration costs.

SB 559 will impact three offshore oil and gas platforms: Eva, Emmy, and Ester. Platforms Eva and Emmy are located in Huntington Beach, while Ester is located off Seal Beach.

“These three platforms, which were constructed between 1963 and 1985, have lasted beyond their intended lifespan and pose a threat to our marine ecosystems, coastal communities, and the state’s $2 trillion coastal economy," said Min.  

According to CalGEM, there are 42 active wells on Platform Eva, 30 active wells on Platform Esther and 44 active well on Platform Emmy. This number does not include wells that have been properly plugged and abandoned.

As of October 1, 2021, there were a total of 150 reported permits issued by CalGEM in offshore wells in state waters under existing leases since January 1, 2019, according to an analysis posted at by Consumer Watchdog and FracTracker Alliance. Five of these permits were for new drilling and the remaining 145 for reworks (including sidetracks and deepening operations). 

In February 2017, an analysis of Department of Conservation data by the Fractracker Alliance revealed that Governor Jerry Brown’s oil and gas regulators approved 238 new or reworked offshore oil wells in state waters under existing leases off Los Angeles and Ventura counties from 2012 to 2016, an increase of 17 percent.  

Although the bill has no co-sponsors, supporters or opponents listed yet, as it has been introduced, it is expected to be supported by environmental justice, conservation and public interest groups and opposed fiercely by the Western States Petroleum Association and the oil companies.

The oil and gas industry in California spent over $34.2 million in the 2021-22 Legislative Session against bills they opposed, including Min’s previous bill to ban drilling in state waters, legislation to mandate 3200 foot buffer zones around oil and gas wells and a bill to divest California public pension funds.

Big Oil spent a total of $4,220,214 in lobbying expenses in the last quarter from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2022, according to data posted on the California Secretary of State’s website. That brings the total of oil and gas corporation lobbying expenses to $34,270,001 in the eight quarters of the 2021-22 session:…   

The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), the largest and most powerful corporate lobbying group in Sacramento, spent $11,720,912 in the 2021-22 session. They spent $1,734,594 out of the $4,220,214 spent on lobbying by the oil and gas industry in California in the eighth quarter.

Chevron Corporation, the San-Ramon based oil giant that is infamous for environmental devastation and degradation from the Ecuadorian Amazon to Richmond, California, spent a total of $8,631,118 lobbying California officials in the 2021-22 session. They spent $782,341out of the $4,220,214 total fossil fuel lobbying expenses in the fourth quarter.

For the oil corporations, this lobbying money is just pocket change. As Californians were gouged at the pumps, Chevron reported 2022 earnings of $35.5 billion, more than doubling last year's $15.6 billion profits, reported Consumer Watchdog.

Lobbying is just one of the eight methods that Big Oil uses in California to exercise inordinate influence over California regulators. WSPA and Big Oil wield their power in 8 major ways: through (1) lobbying; (2) campaign spending; (3) serving on and putting shills on regulatory panels; (4) creating Astroturf groups; (5) working in collaboration with media; (6) creating alliances with labor unions; (7) contributing to non profit organizations; and (8) sponsoring awards for legislators and journalists.  

In one glaring example of oil and gas industry officials serving on regulatory panels, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association, chaired  the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create “marine protected areas” in Southern California from 2009 to 2012, as well as serving on the task forces to create “marine protected areas” on the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast from 2004 to 2012. 

The introduction of Min's SB 559 follows the introduction by Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representative Jared Huffman (both D-Calif.) of the West Coast Ocean Protection Act to permanently ban new drilling leases in federal waters off the West Coast off the coast of California, Oregon and Washington.

In the Senate, the legislation is cosponsored by Senators Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
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