The coast in Southern California. stock photo

February 4, 2021

By Ramona du Houx

Two bills introduced in the last week of January by U.S. Representative Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara) would restrict oil and gas developments on the Central Coast if passed, which the congressman believes will pave the way for local renewables and offshore wind projects.

On January 28, Carbajal reintroduced the California Clean Coast Act, which was his first bill that he introduced as a Member of Congress, determined to protect the coast from offshore drilling.

His action followed President Biden executive orders to temporarily halt oil and gas drilling on federal public lands and offshore waters, and identify steps to double renewable energy production from offshore wind by 2030. The California Clean Coast Act takes the President’s action a major step further by permanently banning future offshore oil and gas leasing in areas of the Outer Continental Shelf off the coast of California.

The bill’s reintroduction coincides with the 52nd anniversary of the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, in which 100,000 barrels of crude oil were spilled into the waters off of California’s Central Coast. In 2015 there was a pipeline spill along the Gaviota coast.

“The Central Coast has witnessed the devastation of oil spills first-hand, including the toll they take on our coastal communities, local economies, and fragile ocean ecosystems. 52 years and several oil spills later, we must pass this bill and permanently end new oil and gas development off our shore,” said Rep. Carbajal. “It’s time we relied less on fossil fuels and more on renewable energies, like offshore wind, which will create energy and good-paying jobs without damaging our environment or our planet.”

UMaine’s floating offshore wind turbine, VolturnUS.

About 60 percent bulk of the nation’s offshore wind resources are in areas where the water is so deep that conventional foundations—large steel piles or lattice structures fixed to the seabed—are not practical. U.S. offshore wind projects are developing a variety of different foundations suited to unique conditions at each site.

In Maine, a floating offshore wind platform, VolturnUS, has successfully been tested and there is interest in the turbine’s potential for California. The key to the University of Maine’s floating wind turbine design that makes it attractive is that the windfarms can be placed in deep water, where the strongest winds are located and the turbines won’t be seen from the coast.

A California offshore wind power auction could begin in 2021. Adam Stern, executive director of the Menlo Park, CA-based trade association, Offshore Wind California, has said, “progress has been made in the federal approval process” conducted by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). That means auctions of offshore wind sites, “may begin in 2021.”

In total, 11 companies applied for leases in both Diablo Canyon and Morro Bay off the Central California coast, while 10 applied for spaces off of Humboldt Bay in Northern California. Environmental impacts will be conducted to protect the ecosystem and those who make a living from it.

“Our city enacted a ban on offshore oil and gas right after Trump announced his intentions. I’m heartened by President Biden’s executive actions, and to see that Rep. Carbajal’s Clean Coast Act will make some of those actions’ permanent,” said Heidi Harmon, Mayor of San Luis Obispo, and Co-Chair of the Elected Officials to Protect America – California’s Leadership Council. “Coastal communities live under the constant threat of an environment oil spill happening at any moment. Replacing antiquated oil rigs with offshore wind turbines, will make us responsible stewards of the marine ecosystem our communities rely on, moving us closer to a clean energy economy.”

The other piece of legislation Rep. Carbajal introduced is the California Land Protection Act, on January 25. The legislation would block new fracking or oil and gas drilling on federal lands on California’s central and southern coasts. His coastal colleagues Rep. Julia Brownley (D-Ventura) and Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-Monterey) are original co-sponsors.

“The Central Coast boasts some of the most beautiful natural treasures in the country and pursuing fracking or oil and gas leasing on public land will only hurt our environment, public health, and recreation economy,” said Rep. Carbajal. “Our public land is not for sale. I’m proud to partner with my Central Coast colleagues to prevent the Bureau of Land Management from exploiting the environment to line the pockets of the oil industry.”

The bill is a direct response to the Trump administration’s move last year to allow the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to pursue oil and gas leasing on over 1.2 million acres of California land, including San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

“Good environmental stewardship is a core tenet of who we are as Ventura County residents,” said Congresswoman Julia Brownley. “We have a responsibility to protect our lands for future generations and to prevent the exploitation and degradation of our natural resources. I am proud to coauthor the California Land Protection Act, which will protect federal lands within Ventura County from the harmful consequences of drilling and fracking.”

The California Land Protection Act prohibits BLM from authorizing future oil and gas leasing until the department publishes a comprehensive environmental impact statement to assess potential effects on climate change, air quality, water, wildlife, emissions, impacted communities—including low-income and indigenous communities, and communities of color. If the evaluation finds adverse impacts, BLM cannot move forward with new drilling and development.

“As a federal legislator, I strive to make decisions based on evidence and I expect federal agencies to do the same, ” said Congressman Jimmy Panetta. “I look forward to working with the Biden Administration to reverse the previous administration’s threats to not just the environment, but also the economy and our way of life on the Central Coast.”

While President Joe Biden signed executive orders on Jan. 27 that temporarily halted drilling on federal lands Rep. Carbajal emphasized the importance of making these actions permanent.

Diablo Canyon Power Plant is California’s last nuclear power plant is slated to be shut down. Unit 1 will close in 2024, and Unit 2 is scheduled for retirement in 2025. Located on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean in San Luis Obispo County.

“When you consider the closing of the Diablo Canyon Power Plant will put 1,500 people out of job, we need to create green jobs that people who are currently in the oil industry could transition to,” Rep. Carbajal.

Rep. Carbajal in Washington D.C. greets veterans.

If these bills pass it will move Rep. Carbajal’s objective of more clean energy jobs in that direction, as Diablo Canyon is one of the locations for offshore wind development leases and President Biden has made it clear that he wants a just transition from fossil fuel jobs to those in a clean energy economy. Biden also intends to provide jobs to plug oil and gas wells that are idle, which numbers are staggering, so those in that industry who don’t want to be retrained can find employment.

Rep. Carbajal served eight years in the United States Marine Corps Reserve, including active duty service during the Gulf War in 1992. He’s been in Congress since 2017 and is a member of the bi-partisan Climate Solutions Caucus, which serves as a working group dedicated to advancing proposals that will mitigate and reduce climate change, while at the same time encouraging economic growth and job creation.