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San Diego supervisors throw support behind stopping new offshore drilling

This May 16, 2015, file photo shows a service boat carrying workers back to shore from a platform off Seal Beach, Calif.
John Antczak / AP
This May 16, 2015, file photo shows a service boat carrying workers back to shore from a platform off Seal Beach, Calif.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors Tuesday voted unanimously to support a congressional bill aimed at prohibiting new offshore oil drilling in Southern California.

The American Coasts and Oceans Protection Act, written by U.S. Rep. Mike Levin, D-Oceanside, came about following the Oct. 1 oil spill off the coast of Huntington Beach.

"We must protect our beaches and bays from the risks associated with offshore drilling, and the action we took today is another step in our commitment to deliver clean, safe, and enjoyable beaches and waterways for you to enjoy," board Chairman Nathan Fletcher said in a statement.


According to county officials, there have been six major oil spills off the coast of California over the past 50 years, "polluting miles and miles of beaches, causing untold damage to our coastal ecology and beach economies." Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer said.

"Fossil fuels are fouling our coastlines and poisoning our communities," she said, adding that along with environmental damage, such spills also harm the local economy.

Her colleague Jim Desmond noted that since the 1980s, San Diegans have led efforts to oppose offshore drilling, and there have been no new offshore leases in 30 years.

"We've all be united in that opposition across party lines," Desmond added. "We need to push against any attempt to revive drilling."

The board also voted unanimously for several proposals by Supervisor Joel Anderson, including the county sending an official letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom requesting that minimally operating oil platforms be decommissioned, and seeking any needed funding via the federal infrastructure bill.


During a brief public hearing, several people called in to support the offshore drilling ban. "We cannot move forward in the fight against climate change until we address what's happening on our coasts," said Lucero Sanchez, policy coordinator with San Diego Coast Keeper.

In a statement earlier this week, Levin said the "latest oil spill off our coast was yet another reminder of the serious environmental and economic consequences of offshore oil and gas drilling activity. Our ocean, beaches, and businesses bear the brunt of that pollution, and it's time to put our coast ahead of the fossil fuel companies that profit from more drilling."

While no oiled wildlife had been located in San Diego County from the Huntington Beach spill, tar balls -- which contain hazardous chemicals -- were found at the county's beaches.

Authorities initially estimated that as much as 144,000 gallons of oil may have leaked from the damaged pipeline, but officials later said it may be closer to 25,000 gallons. No firm number has been determined yet.

"There are few things we love more in San Diego than a family day at the beach, but the recent oil spill causing tar balls to wash ashore across San Diego County showed us offshore oil drilling is not worth the risk," Fletcher said earlier. "It's time we eliminate offshore drilling and I appreciate Congressman Levin's proactive legislation."

Lawson-Remer said officials are "decarbonizing our region and creating a new generation of green jobs, but we cannot succeed in this transition if there is drilling off our coast, destroying our coastal ecosystem, and keeping our planet on the road to climate catastrophe."