Key water-policy panel endorses plan to convert oil rigs into artificial reefs
Sen. Bob Hertzberg seeks to streamline process, protect coast at no taxpayer expense
SACRAMENTO – Heeding arguments that California’s beautiful coastline will continue to face grave threats from oil spills and leaks, an Assembly policy committee today approved a plan by Sen. Bob Hertzberg to make it easier to convert old oil rigs into artificial reefs and end off-shore oil production.
“This is when we re-engineer government,” Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, said shortly before the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee approved Senate Bill 233 on a bipartisan vote. “What we’ve done here is make the private sector pick up the tab and we’ve come up with a way to fund environmental protection at no taxpayer expense.”
Specifically, SB 233 would improve the permitting process for converting oil rigs to artificial reefs by making the State Lands Commission the lead agency for actions affecting California’s Environmental Quality Act. The permitting process must also consider the air quality or greenhouse gas emission impacts associated with a rig’s decommissioning in consultation with the state Air Resources Board. Finally, the bill also provides that the applicants to the program pay for the review.
“The principle goal of the bill is to streamline the system,” testified Barry Broad, a representative for the Coalition for Enhanced Marine Resources and the Sport Fishing Conservancy, bill co-sponsors. “This truly is a cleanup bill to make the system workable.”
Hertzberg noted that while California’s coast is home to more than two dozen oil platforms that have been extracting fossil fuels, some for more than 50 years, the half century-old construction technology poses a threat to the state’s coast as the platforms age and continue to be battered by ocean forces.
At the same time, these oil rigs have become home to decades of accumulated and valuable marine life that have made a home of the massive structures.
In California, however, Hertzberg said the permitting process for partial removal of rigs under the California Marine Resources Legacy Act has become cumbersome because multiple agencies are involved. Since the program launched five years ago, no operator has applied for a permit under CMRLA. Federal law requires platforms to continue pumping oil and gas until they have received a permit for their decommissioning.
“As a result, the harder it is to get a permit approved, the more oil will be pumped,” Hertzberg said. “This bill is about three things: Ending pumping oil off shore; securing millions of dollars in environmental protection at no taxpayer expense; and improving government.”
SB 233 will next be reviewed by the Assembly Appropriations Committee; no hearing date has been set.
For more, including a Fact Sheet on SB 233, visit Hertzberg’s Web site at the address below.
Bob Hertzberg, chair of the Senate Committee on Governance and Finance, represents nearly 1 million San Fernando Valley residents of Senate District 18, which includes part of Burbank and the following communities in Los Angeles: Arleta, Granada Hills, Hansen Dam, Lake View Terrace, Mission Hills, North Hills, North Hollywood, part of Northridge, Pacoima, Panorama City, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, part of Sun Valley, Sylmar, Toluca Lake, Valley Glen, Valley Village, Van Nuys, the City of San Fernando and Universal City. See a district map HERE or at http://sd18.senate.ca.gov/district. After serving in the Assembly from 1996-2002, including two years as Speaker, Hertzberg invested in solar, wind and electric-car projects; and worked for structural changes in government through the Think Long Committee of California. More HERE or at www.senate.ca.gov/hertzberg
MEDIA CONTACT: Ray Sotero
Sen. Bob Hertzberg, Senate District 18
Capitol Building, Room 4038
Sacramento, Calif. 95814
(916) 651-4018 office; 916 834-1128 cell; or firstname.lastname@example.org