Spill Baby Spill — Garamendi urges curtailment of new offshore oil drilling

Congressman John Garamendi (D-Walnut Grove, CA) yesterday testified before the House Natural Resources Committee, urging the committee to consider policies that curtail new offshore oil drilling from platforms. Garamendi also highlighted his bill, the West Coast Ocean Protection Act of 2010, (HR-5213) which would ban all new oil and natural gas leases from platforms in federal waters on the West Coast. See transcript below.

“Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, thank you very much for this extraordinary privilege of addressing you at this moment when we are in the midst of a crisis on the Gulf Coast. The purpose of my attendance here and participation in this is to say Murphy was right with his law, ‘What can go wrong will go wrong.’

“We’ve seen plenty of that in the past, in the Gulf over the last 15 to 20 years, we’ve seen some 38 blowouts. In California, and this brings me to my point, we saw a massive blowout in 1969 in the Santa Barbara channel that led to a moratorium on the West Coast in state waters for the last 43 years.

“As the Lieutenant Governor of the State of California last year, I led the fight to stop new oil leasing in California waters. In my previous work as the Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior in the 1990s, we made a major effort to stop new leases off the West Coast and persuaded with very little trouble President Clinton to continue the Presidential moratorium on the West Coast.

“We need a law, and as you ponder and listen to the reports from the oil companies as to what’s happening today, and what did happen and cause the blowout, I would like you to keep in mind that stuff happens, really bad stuff happens. And we’ve seen that on the Gulf Coast.

“It will happen again. Despite every effort, accidents do occur. And when those accidents occur, should it be from a drilling platform on the West Coast when a blowout occurs, we’re talking about a major problem. Environmental to be sure, and economic.

“In California, it is calculated that the coast environment of California provides the state $22 billion in annual economic activity and employs 369,000 people. In Oregon it’s over $1 billion annually and some 17,000 are employed. In Washington, 150,000 people and over $8 billion. We value that economic activity as much as we value the precious coastline, the fishing, and the other opportunities it presents to us.

“No more oil. We can drill baby drill but we can also count on spill baby spill. And that’s happened. Not just this one incident, as horrible as it is in the Gulf Coast, but it’s happened over and over throughout the world. A huge blowout on the West Coast of Australia lost year took months to contain.

“And here we are once again. It’s time for a permanent law. That’s why my bill, H.R. 5213, the West Coast Ocean Protection Act deserves your attention and deserves your pondering as you listen to the testimony of the oil industry today. I would ask you to consider the other legislation that has been proposed by our colleagues here in the House. A permanent protection in the East Coast, in law, not just depending on the President but rather depending on the laws of this nation. And also an expansion of protections on the West Coast of Florida. These are important.

“It is important for this nation to end its addiction to oil. As long as we drill, as long as we open our coastlines to drilling, we will continue our addiction, just as surely as a junkie on the street will find the next pusher. It’s time for us to say enough and to spend those vast amounts of money that are employed in the drilling industry, to spend that money on renewable energies of all kinds. Solar, wind, geothermal, nuclear, all of those things must be our future.

“It’s our opportunity today to push the junkie aside and to end our addiction, and the legislation that I’m proposing and that my colleagues are proposing set us on that course.

“Mr. Chairman I thank you, I look forward to working with this committee, I thank you for the work of the members of the committee and what you have managed to do, and I join you in attentive listening to the next witnesses.”

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