For Immediate Release, June 1, 2015

Contact: Miyoko Sakashita, (510) 845-6703,

Loophole in Gov. Brown’s Oil Spill Emergency Order Weakens Environmental Protections

SAN FRANCISCO— The Center for Biological Diversity today called on Gov. Jerry Brown to rescind an order suspending key environmental rules that should be governing cleanup of the devastating Santa Barbara oil spill.

In a letter sent this morning, the Center urged Gov. Brown to reverse a provision in his May 20 emergency declaration that suspended key parts of the Coastal Act and the authority of the Coastal Commission to ensure that work on the spill and pipeline repair doesn’t damage the coastal environment. “This exemption will allow the company responsible for this devastating oil spill to evade critically important environmental protections provided by state law,” the letter declares.

“The last thing this oil-drenched area needs is for Gov. Brown to waive the rules that help the Coastal Commission protect our beaches for people and wildlife,” said Miyoko Sakashita, the Center’s ocean program director. “Rather than adding insult to injury after this oil spill, Gov. Brown needs to repeal this provision and let the commission hold this company and its contractors to the highest cleanup and restoration standards. California’s coasts deserve as much.”

When not properly managed, oil spill response efforts can further jeopardize coastal waters and wildlife by discharging additional harmful pollutants into waterways and eliminating or disrupting habitat. The provision could also allow pipeline repair and operation to escape crucial environmental scrutiny.

The provision suspending the Coastal Act escaped immediate attention when Gov. Brown issued the order a day after a Plains All-American Pipeline ruptured and leaked more than 100,000 gallons of crude oil, coating the coastline. That provision reads: “Chapter 7 (commencing with section 30600) of division 20 of the Public Resources Code, and the conditions or requirements of any permit issued thereunder, are hereby suspended with respect to any work reasonably necessary to mitigate the effects of the emergency.”

But the Coastal Act already includes provisions for expediting oil spill cleanups. By seizing authority to oversee that work in Santa Barbara, the governor’s office — which has already drawn fire for failing to stop the oil industry from dumping waste fluid into protected drinking water aquifers — is thwarting an established system that holds companies responsible for oil spills to the highest cleanup standards. 

As the Center’s letter concludes: “In issuing your Proclamation of a State of Emergency within the County of Santa Barbara due to the oil spill, you stated, ‘[W]e will do everything necessary to protect California’s coastline.’ Provision 5 of your Proclamation, by allowing the company responsible for the spill to evade the environmental protections embodied within Section 7 of the Coastal Act, does just the opposite. We therefore urge you to immediately repeal Provision 5 of your Proclamation so that this company and its contractors are held to the highest cleanup and restoration standards, and California’s coastal environment and wildlife receive the protections they deserve.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 825,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.



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