State committee on OC oil spill hears about complexities of phasing out offshore oil production – Orange County Register
The discussion on retiring oil production facilities was the focus of a second of what could be several hearings held by a special committee of state Assembly members created to probe the Oct. 1 oil spill in Orange County, which leaked roughly 25,000 gallons of crude into the ocean, shutting down shorelines for more than a week and halting fishing along the 45-mile coast for nearly two months.
Previously, a November hearing discussed spill prevention and detection and response procedures.
The experts that joined in on talks Tuesday, including an official with the California State Lands Commission, attorneys for environmental groups and union representatives, touched on the laws surrounding, and the methods available for, shutting down dried up oil wells, and what transitioning away from fossil fuels could mean for industrial oil workers.
Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, chair of the committee, said at the end of the nearly three-hour hearing that the takeaways from speakers “and the future conversations and discussions that we will plan with stakeholders really will help us shape the coming years of making our state and planet a cleaner and safer place for all Californians.”
Of the 27 platforms in the ocean off California, eight are being decommissioned now, Linda Krop, an attorney for the Environmental Defense Center, told Assembly members during Tuesday’s hearing. The process includes plugging abandoned oil wells with cement and deciding whether the structures will be removed entirely. There are exemptions carved out in federal law for partial removal if an offshore rig can be turned into an artificial reef, Krop said.
That option comes with its own challenges, however, including the state taking on responsibility of the leftover structure.
As state leaders look to move away from use of fossil fuels, the building and construction workers who service oil refineries want to be sure phasing out oil production doesn’t mean jobs lost. Erin Lehane, a representative for the State Building and Construction Trades Council, emphasized during the hearing that workers want to stay in the trade they were trained for, even as the state transitions to other energy production.
“Our intention and our fight is in maintaining the jobs that our members currently have, currently love, and enable them to feed their families. These jobs should remain in the state of California until the state is no longer dependent on fossil fuels,” Lehane said. “At the same time, simultaneously, we see moving our members into new technologies, new industries like carbon capture and hydrogen and other new fuels that will allow industrial workers to remain industrial workers.”
She asked legislators to help push forward new green energy opportunities in California.
“Let’s get these new facilities built. Let’s get carbon capture going. Let’s get hydrogen online. Let’s get new fuels online. Let’s build offshore wind,” Lehane said.
“There’s huge urgency here. The state does not have the power production necessary to support the goals that we’ve set for the state,” she added. “We need to get going yesterday.”
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