ENCINITAS — As the fallout from a recent oil spill off the coast of Orange County continues to be assessed, Rep. Mike Levin (D-San Juan Capistrano) held a press conference Tuesday at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas to gather support for his proposed legislation prohibiting new offshore drilling activity along the Southern California coast.
The spill was first reported Saturday when a pipeline owned and operated by Amplify Energy began spilling oil into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Orange County near Huntington Beach.
As of Tuesday, the company has said the pipeline has been turned off and is no longer spilling oil into the ocean. Roughly 126,000 gallons of crude oil are estimated to have spilled into the ocean before the leak was stopped.
According to the LA Times, the Coast Guard is currently investigating if an anchor from a commercial ship was the cause of the leak.
“The oil spill that began Saturday off the coast of Orange County is a grave ecological disaster,” Levin said at the press conference Tuesday morning at Moonlight Beach. “The impact of this spill on our communities throughout Southern California has been devastating.”
The oil has made its way south down the coastline and has caused the indefinite closure of the Dana Point Harbor, part of Levin’s district.
The spill has continued to move south towards San Diego County but Levin said experts hope the oil will move away from the coastline.
“What I’ve heard as recently as last night is that it’s inevitable that as the oil moves south and that some minimal amount will get down here but the real question is how much and when,” Levin said.
Also at the press conference were Mayor Catherine Blakespear, Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath (D-Encinitas) and representatives from regional environmental groups.
Sarah Bedolfe, a marine scientist with Oceana, said the spill is the inevitable result of offshore drilling.
“Offshore drilling threatens disaster at every stage,” Bedolfe said. “In fact from 2007 to 2018 there were over 7000 spills in federal waters; an average of about two every day. And the major spill we are experiencing today is not an isolated incident.”
Blakespear said she will be introducing a resolution to the Encinitas City Council officially supporting Levin’s federal legislation to stop offshore drilling in Southern California.
“The pipeline that ruptured was over 40 years old and this may portend more oil spills because of this old infrastructure,” Blakespear said. “It’s a reminder that we need to permanently ban offshore drilling off the West Coast.”
Blakespear and others at the event stressed the importance of society weaning itself off oil dependency and transitioning to electrification. The Encinitas City Council recently adopted a “green building” reach code banning the use of gas lines in most new building construction in the city.
Levin also expressed his support for phasing out the existing oil activity along the California coastline but does not yet have a plan in place for doing so.
He responded to a question from The Coast News saying one of his biggest concerns with current activity is the age of the infrastructure.
“And what I always say for those who are concerned for whatever economic loss may come if you were to shut them all down tomorrow, well it’s about 200 miles worth of pipeline,” Levin said. “It’s very, very minor compared to the thousands and thousands of miles of pipeline overall just offshore in the United States. So we’re talking about a very, very small amount of potential reward for a very significant amount of potential risk.”