RELEASE: Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris & Community Leaders Call for End to Offshore Drilling in California

Indigenous, environmental justice, coastal and ocean protection organizations demand that latest ecological disaster off California’s coast should be the last

For immediate release:
OC Oil Spill Press Conference

HUNTINGTON BEACH – Assemblywoman Petrie-Norris led a briefing this morning (VIDEO) that included the largest congregation yet of leading indigenous, environmental justice, coastal and ocean protection organizations who are calling for an end to offshore drilling in federal waters on the California coast.   On October 1, 2021, a broken pipeline operated by Beta Operating Co., a subsidiary of Amplify Energy, began to leak - spewing more than 144,000 gallons of post-productive crude oil into the Pacific Ocean. Oil from that spill is wreaking havoc not only in the marine environment but along the coast -- prompting a massive effort now underway to mitigate damage to beaches, wetlands, and other sensitive habitats. This latest ecological disaster off California’s coast should be the last.

Speakers at this morning’s briefing included leaders with: Sacred Places Institute for Indigenous Peoples, Azul, Audubon California, Blue Latitudes Foundation, Bolsa Chica Land Trust, CalPIRG Students at UC Irvine, Crystal Cove Conservancy, Environment California, Get Inspired, Heal the Bay, Indivisible OC 48, Monterey Bay Aquarium, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), Ocean Conservancy, Oceana, Orange County Coastkeeper, Project O, Surfrider Foundation, and Sustainable Ocean Alliance. 

Elected leaders also joined the call to action, including Assemblymember Richard Bloom, Chair of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee 3 on Climate Crisis, Resources, Energy, and Transportation; Assemblywoman Luz Rivas, Chair of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee; State Senator Dave Min, Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley and Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen. 

Statements from each of these participants - and others who were unable to join - are included below.

Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, representing Laguna Beach, Newport Beach & Huntington Beach: "It is past time to stop offshore drilling along our precious California coast - the costs of drilling are devastating for our environment, our community and our local economy. Flying over the spill site, I was reminded of both the majesty and the fragility of our oceans. We are stewards of this ocean and we are stewards of this planet - we need to step up and ensure that this does not happen again on our watch.”  

Angela Mooney DArcy, Executive Director, Sacred Places Institute for Indigenous Peoples: "Acjachemen and Tongva People have maintained respectful, reciprocal and sustainable relationships with the coastal lands and waters of what is now known as Orange County since time immemorial. We are heartbroken to witness the environmental devastation in our ancestral lands and waters as a result of oil extraction in our homelands. The recent oil spill in our homelands makes it clear that the time to end offshore oil drilling and rematriate tribal lands and waters is now."

Aaron McCall, Indivisible OC 48: “In the midst of this environmental catastrophe, it is heartening to know that Orange County Leaders are leading the way towards green technologies and renewable energy. For too long community members from all walks of life have called for a transition to renewable energy, and now their leaders are taking the steps to make that request a reality.”

Kate Wheeler, President & CEO, Crystal Cove Conservancy: “Here we are again, where we’ve been so often before. We can have an impact on whether we find ourselves here again by opposing new offshore drilling and demanding better oversight. This is a moment to take notice and adapt practices that are harming the planet and its inhabitants - to move toward sustainability. We cannot find ourselves here again tomorrow.”

Virginia Esperanza Lorne, Managing Director, Laguna Ocean Foundation: “The entire coast of the City of Laguna Beach is designated by the state as a marine protected area, and with good reason: its rich kelp forests and tidepools are biodiverse treasures. However, an oil spill of this magnitude can devastate these special coastal ecosystems in an instant. Marine life may take years to recover. Laguna Ocean Foundation works to protect the beaches, tidepools, and estuaries of our local coast and to share the wonder of those resources with the public.  Harm to those resources, of any kind, is a loss to us all. While we must pause our onsite tidepool education programs until the City determines it is safe to reopen the beaches, we offer our support to the cleanup efforts in any way we can. We applaud the efforts of the Coast Guard and all of the organizations and agencies who protect and enhance the coastal environment alongside us, and urge proper safeguards to prevent disasters like this from happening again.” 

Mike Beanan, Coalition Member, Laguna Bluebelt: “The ocean is too precious to pollute. Laguna is surrounded by coastal waters within the Gulf of Santa Catalina. As a gulf, currents and countercurrents usually provide a rich mix of nutrients for healthy kelp forests and abundant sea life. Once contaminated by oil disasters, however, these same currents circulate and retain harmful petroleum chemicals throughout the marine life food chain. If spared from the oil slick, Laguna Beach's network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) will serve as an essential nursery to replenish sea life in communities damaged by the recent oil disaster.”

Garry Brown, Founder & President, Orange County Coastkeeper: “This devastating oil spill, which is not the first, demonstrates we must not grant another lease to drill for oil offshore. Additionally, the environmental community must work with the oil industry and legislature to develop legislation that provides a clear path to expediting the decommissioning of the remaining 23 operating oil platforms.”

Kim Kolpin, Executive Director, Bolsa Chica Land Trust: “The Bolsa Chica Land Trust is deeply grateful for the massive effort underway to protect the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve from impacts due to the oil spill. Our coastal environment will suffer an immeasurable loss, and the impact will affect our wetland and shoreline habitats for decades. BCLT supports Senator Min's and Assemblywoman Petrie-Norris' call for a federal offshore drilling ban, to ensure that this offshore oil spill is California's last.”

Tabitha Turner, Chair, CALPIRG Students Chapter at UC Irvine: “It’s devastating to see the oil spill right in our backyard at Huntington Beach and the Talbert Marsh. We’re used to seeing a myriad of wildlife in the area, from blue herons to the endangered Ridgway’s Rail marsh bird, and of course the dolphins offshore. Unfortunately, this is just another example that if we drill, we spill.”

Capt. Nancy L. Caruso, Marine Biologist/Founder, Get Inspired: “There is no good solution to an oil spill. We are waiting with baited breath to see where the clean up/restoration needs to take place in our Marine Protected Areas in Orange County. My heart hurts as I think of the kelp, abalone, clams, hermit crabs, and all the other species that are currently threatened by this preventable disaster.”

Andrea León-Grossmann, Director of Climate Action, Azul: “We must stop treating the ocean as a profit center with an extractive economy that rewards polluters and hurts the most vulnerable. Protecting biodiversity and demanding a just transition to 100% renewable energy would not just help our climate, it would help protect people’s health and give us an opportunity to have an equitable future.”

Jacqueline Savitz, Chief Policy Officer, Oceana: “This is the legacy of the fossil fuel age, in which the oil and gas industry pushed their product until we were addicted. We need to break that addiction by shifting to clean energy. It’s time for the age of oil and gas to be history. This is just the latest of many tragedies caused by the oil and gas industry. The reality of our reliance on oil and gas is on full display here. In Southern California, the oil has already made its way onto our coasts, covering our beaches in oil and suffocating wildlife, and most of the oil now in our ocean will never be recovered. When we drill, we spill. It’s well past time to prevent future oil spills by permanently protecting our coasts from offshore drilling. The devastating social, economic, and ecological consequences of offshore drilling are, sadly, on full display in Southern California right now. It’s time for President Biden to deliver on his campaign promise to end offshore drilling and we need California’s Senators to ensure this gets done immediately.”

Dr. Chad Nelsen, CEO, Surfrider Foundation: “Sadly, once the oil is spilled it is too late. As we are again learning in Southern California, once the disaster has occurred we can only try to minimize the damage. That is why the Surfrider Foundation has consistently opposed new offshore oil drilling off U.S. coastlines. In the meantime, our priority must be to contain the spill from further impacting coastal areas and wetlands and ensure that government agencies and the responsible party conduct a full and comprehensive cleanup with appropriate environmental mitigation.”

Julie Packard, Executive Director, Monterey Bay Aquarium: “California is no stranger to the destructive impacts of oil spills and offshore oil drilling. The 1969 Santa Barbara Channel disaster was a catalyst for the modern environmental movement, and for California taking leadership to ban new offshore oil production in state waters. This latest spill is regrettably more evidence of how devastating offshore oil production is for California and for our climate. As Californians mobilize to save our remarkable wildlife and habitats from this catastrophe, we also must accelerate our shift away from oil extraction and toward a clean-energy future.”

George Leonard, Chief Scientist, Ocean Conservancy: “This is a terrible déjà vu all over again. The emerging news coverage and stories from the communities trying to triage the horror of oiled wildlife, tar balls on beaches and extensive booms being put into the ocean to stop the currents from carrying the oil further are a reminder that this has happened multiple times in California and across the U.S. As we bear witness to the growing harm to the marine environment and California communities, we call for rigorous documentation of the environmental, economic, and social damage. This information will be critical to holding the responsible party accountable under U.S. law for the costs of containment, cleanup and damages. This oil spill is another tragic reminder that we must act swiftly to transition ourselves off fossil fuels. We must accelerate the switch to clean energy alternatives to prevent another offshore oil tragedy like this and mitigate the worst of the climate crisis. Today’s latest catastrophe shows we don’t have a moment to waste.”

Sarah Rose, Executive Director, Audubon California: “A spill of this magnitude is a disaster whenever it occurs, but this one occurred in an especially sensitive area at a critical time, as many bird species head south for the winter. This spill – in virtually the same spot as a devastating 1990 spill – is a reminder that petroleum and water are a dangerous mix along California’s precious coast and that continued reliance on oil kills birds and other wildlife, threatens our public health, and harms local economies and recreational opportunities.”

Laura Deehan, State Director, Environment California
: “The hundred-thousand of gallons of oil that spilled into the ocean near Huntington Beach provide a stark and dark reminder that oil is dirty, dangerous, and can make our air and water too toxic for life. The oil from the spill has already washed up onto Huntington Beach and the Talbert Marsh wetlands, an area that’s home to vibrant birdlife, including great blue herons, pelicans and endangered California least terns, which migrate up the Pacific Coast. The coast is also the habitat for myriad non-avian marine life; from fish that we eat, such as tuna and sea bass, to sea turtles, dolphins and whales. This spill threatens all of them. This ecological disaster underscores the urgent need for Gov. Newsom to accelerate our transition away from fossil fuels to a 100 percent renewable energy-powered economy.”

Damon Nagami, senior attorney and director of Southern California ecosystems project, NRDC
: “Every spill begins with a lease sale. And this kind of devastation—not to mention the climate crisis—should guide the Biden administration’s thinking as it makes decisions on leasing our federal waters. A good first step would be cancelling the massive Gulf of Mexico lease sale that’s just weeks away. It is also time to crack down on the oil and gas industry here in California and beyond. This disaster proves that the risks are real. And the costs are simply unacceptable. It’s infuriating to see my childhood beach devastated this way. This is a magical area—one of the country’s most diverse coastal ecosystems—and it angers me to think of whales, dolphins, sea lions and seals trying to swim through crude oil. This is a reminder that action can be taken in DC today to prevent events like this in the future. President Biden's Build Back Better Agenda is focused on clean energy infrastructure, as well as helping to address threats from mines and fossil fuel infrastructure that could foster future similar incidents.”

Brandon Dawson, Director, Sierra Club California: “We’ve known for decades that offshore drilling is dangerous and harmful for California communities and ecosystems. The latest oil spill near Huntington Beach is no different. It’s heartbreaking to witness this oil spill but it’s unfathomable that this isn’t the first time that this has happened. It isn’t even the second or third time that our environment and residents have suffered from destructive events as a result of our state’s continued allowance and reliance on fossil fuels. To prevent this destruction in the future, California needs to lead the way by taking aggressive action to phase out oil drilling altogether if we are going to avoid these oil spills from happening time and time again.”

Rich German, Founder, Project O: “All of our hearts feel broken at the thought of harm being done to the sacred marine animals who have made their home off the pristine coastline of south Orange County. As humans we needed a wake up call to reconsider how our actions impact the ocean, the ecosystem and all the life we share this planet with. Perhaps this is the incident we needed to not only rethink our behaviors but to change them so another event like this never happens again. We truly owe it to ourselves, the marine life and the ocean that provides us all so much.”

Mike Young, Political and Organizing Director, California Environmental Voters: “These types of oil spills don’t happen in isolation and they shouldn’t come as a surprise. Along with intensified droughts and rampant wildfires, they are a direct consequence of our continued use of fossil fuels and highlight our urgent need to transition to clean energy sources. They are a visceral and visual reminder of the cost of this dependence and the price we will be paying for generations to come.The only way to truly prevent oil spills is for our country to shift away from our dependence on fossil fuels and transition to clean, renewable energy. This latest disaster only highlights why we must pass bold climate legislation now - including both the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Build Back Better Act at the federal level. And here at home, we need California's state legislature to be more willing to stand up to corporate polluters and pass far-reaching climate and clean energy legislation.”

Daniela Fernandez, Founder and CEO, Sustainable Ocean Alliance: “Representing the voices of young people globally, we ask for the adoption and acceleration of clean and sustainable energy to enable our transition from fossil fuels. We ask for the ban of new and old offshore drilling. We ask that legislators hold the responsible parties accountable for the damage done to our ocean, the loss of marine life and habitats and the precedent impact that this oil spill will have on future generations. We ask for accountability, enforcement and more importantly for immediate action to prevent another disaster on our coast.” 

Uko Gorter, National President, American Cetacean Society: "We have learned very little since the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. The risks of offshore oil drilling and exploration to the fragile marine environment remain incredibly high. When an incident occurs, containment is nearly impossible and wholly inadequate. The impacts are everlasting. This current incident drives home the need to switch to clean renewable energy, away from fossil fuels.”

Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), Chair, Assembly Budget Subcommittee 3 on Climate Crisis, Resources, Energy, and Transportation: “This is not the first time that we have seen the devastating impacts of an oil spill and if we don’t take appropriate actions as a state and nation, it will not be the last. A well-catalogued history of spills around the globe have proven that there is no failsafe way to produce and transport oil - particularly in the ocean - and we are all too familiar with the long lasting and far reaching environmental and economic consequences that a spill can have. I am committed to doing everything in my power to hold those responsible to account and identifying solutions that ensure that another catastrophic spill does not further damage our natural resources, wildlife, and environment.”

Assemblywoman Luz Rivas (D-San Fernando Valley), Chair of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee: “Another tragedy has devastated California’s pristine coastline with the Platform Elly pipeline disaster,” said. “We are calling on the Biden administration to end offshore oil development off of our coast. Currently, the President is the only authority who can ensure that these harmful practices are banned. California has suffered at the hand of far too many oil spills from these platforms, and each time we say ‘enough is enough,’ no action follows. It is time for the federal government to hear our pleas and end these environmentally hazardous oil extractions, once and for all.

Senator Dave Min (D-Irvine): “This spill is just another unfortunate example of the devastating risks posed to our beautiful California coasts and marine ecosystems by offshore drilling and oil aggregation. I am calling on my federal counterparts to introduce and pass legislation that will end all offshore oil drilling near California, including currently operating rigs and platforms.”

Supervisor Katrina Foley, Orange County: "For decades we have worked with the Army Corp of Engineers, the Land Trust, and community wildlife partners to create beautiful natural habitats for all of our residents. In just one day many of our protected wetlands were irreparably damaged by this preventable oil spill. We must do everything we can to hold those responsible to account and prevent this type of disaster from occurring again.” 

Mayor Bob Whalen, City of Laguna Beach: “While everyone’s immediate focus is on the critical clean up effort, we have to go beyond that to ask—when will we stop inviting disaster and end offshore drilling along  our coastline? For more than forty years history has shown that the question is not whether there will be another spill but when and how bad will it be? The environmental and economic costs of oil spills along our coastline far outweigh the benefits of continued offshore drilling. I am committed to working with our state and federal officials to end offshore drilling along our coastline as soon as possible. Let’s not roll the dice any longer.”