San Francisco: California’s state senate on Monday voted in favour of a bill to close a loophole in a ban on new offshore drilling for oil.
By a 21-13 vote the state legislators reflected widespread concern among their constituents about potential environmental calamities, which is especially acute in the wake of last month’s coastal pipeline rupture in Santa Barbara, when a pipe run by Texas firm Plains All American burst.
This bill will next go to the committee stage of California’s state assembly in Sacramento where it may not have an easy passage because Republican opponents allege it will damage the west coast’s economy.
Monday’s proposed bill would affect a specific area of the sea – a Marine Protected Area in the Santa Barbara Channel known as Tranquillon Ridge. State law had already banned any fresh drilling offshore in 1994 but a technical loophole exempted Tranquillon Ridge, which is rich in marine biodiversity. Closing that loophole would be the main effect if the new bill becomes law.
May’s disaster, known as the Refugio spill after the Refugio State Beach where some of the worst pollution occurred, was California’s largest oil spillage in 25 years and estimates say it spewed more than 100,000 gallons of oil from offshore platforms being piped along Santa Barbara’s coast.