Governor Says Offshore Drilling ‘Part Of Our Past’ After California Oil Spill

"We need to grow up, grow out of this dependency, this mindset that we can’t do more," Democrat Gavin Newsom said.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) vowed Tuesday to vehemently oppose any new drilling in federal waters off the state’s coastline following a large oil spill that fouled some of the nation’s most iconic beaches last weekend.

The governor made the comments Tuesday alongside half a dozen state and local leaders following the oil spill, which occurred about five miles off the coast of Huntington Beach. Officials said Saturday that 126,000 to 144,000 gallons of crude had leaked from an aging pipeline along the seafloor, creating an oil slick that stretched for miles and threatened critical coastal habitats and popular beaches.

It’s the state’s largest spill since 2015, an immediate reminder, Newsom said, that aging oil platforms needed to be phased out as the state transitioned to cleaner energy sources. Newsom declared a state of emergency in Southern California’s Orange County late Monday and said investigators would work quickly to determine how the spill happened.

“It’s time once and for all to disabuse ourselves that this has to be part of our future. This is part of our past,” Newsom said from the sands of Bolsa Chica State Beach. “We can moralize and talk about the good old days, but at the end of the day, this isn’t about the stale air of normalcy but the fresh air of progress.”

The owner of the pipeline, Amplify Energy, said it believed the spill may have been caused by a ship’s anchor, although the U.S. Coast Guard was still determining if that was the case. Amplify added Tuesday that divers found a 13-inch split in the structure and that a large portion of the pipe had been displaced, making it appear like the line had been pulled “like a bowstring.”

Questions remain, however, about how quickly the spill was identified after the Coast Guard said it was first aware of reports of a spill on Friday night, hours before Amplify reported the incident to authorities.

The spill has prompted renewed calls for the federal government to ban offshore drilling. The Los Angeles Times notes no new drilling leases have been approved near California since 1984, but former President Donald Trump attempted to open up the region for exploration in 2018. The stated passed new laws to block that, but officials including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) and Rep. Jared Huffman (D) have reintroduced a bill, called the West Coast Ocean Protection Act, that would permanently bar oil and gas drilling off the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington.

Newsom said banning new drilling wasn’t “complicated,” adding that the difficult part would be transitioning the state away from oil and gas operations that had been in place for decades. He said such work is essential to protect the “coast and other coasts of dreams for future generations.”

“Those damn platforms. Fossil fuels. It’s not very complicated,” the governor said when talking about the cause of climate change. “So we need to grow up, grow out of this dependency, this mindset that we can’t do more. That we can’t do better.”

Environmental cleanup crews pick oil chucks off Huntington Dog Beach in Huntington Beach, California.
Environmental cleanup crews pick oil chucks off Huntington Dog Beach in Huntington Beach, California.
Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) echoed other local leaders who met with Newsom on Tuesday, saying she would continue to support legislation banning offshore drilling in federal waters.

“We are going to make sure that we have answers as to how this happened and that we make sure to hold the responsible party accountable,” she told reporters.