Trio of OC Lawmakers to Lead Field Committee Hearing on Oil Spill Next Week

Amid Oil Spill, Californians Return To Local Beaches

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HUNTINGTON BEACH (CNS) - Three Orange County congressional representatives will lead a field committee hearing on the Huntington Beach oil spill next week, which U.S. Coast Guard officials told reporters appears less impactful than initially feared.

Rep. Katie Porter, D-Irvine, chairwoman of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, and Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, chairman of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, will lead the field hearing along with Rep. Mike Levin, D-Dana Point.

The hearing in Irvine will focus on the effect the oil spill had on the area's business and environment.

On Thursday, Coast Guard officials said they were growing more confident that their minimum estimate of nearly 25,000 gallons will be close to what has occurred.

“So, basically, what they're saying is the cleanup efforts are showing that their estimate of 24,696 gallons is what they're seeing out there,'' said Amy Stork, a spokeswoman for the Coast Guard. “We're very confident it's close to that number.''

Michael Ziccardi, director of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network, is one of the witnesses scheduled to participate in the field hearing.

Some of the oil-slicked wildlife Zicarrdi and his crew have rescued have been cleaned and returned to the wild.

“We've worked so hard and to see oiled little guys and see them all clean and back to normal and back to their environment, it's absolutely what it's all about,'' said Debbie McGuire of the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach, which has served as a triage point for the injured birds.

Officials on Wednesday released a ruddy duck that was recovered on the first day of the spill as well as a Clark's Grebe bird, McGuire said.

It appears the flow of injured birds and fish is slowing, McGuire said.

“We're still getting a trickle of oiled birds coming in,'' she said.

A total of 77 birds were recovered, with 47 dying, the Oiled Wildlife Care Network reported Wednesday. Eleven dead fish and two dead mammals have also been recovered.

Meanwhile, environmental activists pressured Rep. Michelle Steel, R-Surfside, to join efforts to ban offshore oil drilling, but she said she has introduced legislation to crack down on the traffic jam of cargo ships along the coast.

The Stopping Hazardous Incidents in the Pacific Act, or SHIP Act, would prohibit cargo ships from idling or anchoring within 24 nautical miles of the Southern California coast.

Steel said she introduced the bill after learning that investigators suspect an anchor from a ship may have caused the Oct. 2 Orange County leak. The ban would last for six months or until President Joe Biden declares that a backlog in the ports was over.

“Cargo ships idling for months off the Orange County coastline have become an environmental and public health crisis,'' Steel said in a statement. “It's time to get the ports working again and get these ships moving and out of our waters. This crisis could have been prevented and it's important that we protect our waters and coastline.''

About two dozen activists went to Steel's office in Huntington Beach Tuesday to appeal to her to support legislation in the Build Back Better bill sponsored by Levin, which would stop future offshore drilling in federal waters. There is already a ban on state waters.

Steel has not responded to a request since last week asking for her position on the proposed legislation.

Aaron McCall, a federal advocacy coordinator for California Environmental Voters, said Steel's proposed legislation was “not only deeply irresponsible, it's the policy proposal that's basically the equivalent of saying people's faces should stay out of the way of someone's fist.''

McCall said it was a “deflection,'' and added, “There's one solution, and that's to stop offshore drilling.''

He said clamping down on cargo traffic would “put the economy at risk'' and that the bill was to “deflect the blame and protect oil polluters.''

Removing cargo ships won't solve the problem, he said, because, “There's going to be other sorts of risks that will lead to these ruptures.''

On Thursday, Steel announced she sent a letter to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Coast Guard requesting a review of the nautical charts near the oil pipelines to make sure shipping companies know where they are and can avoid an anchor damaging the pipelines, as investigators have theorized may have happened in Huntington Beach.

Levin, meanwhile, continued to press his case for ending offshore drilling in a Natural Resources Committee meeting on Thursday.

He said it was “my great hope this drives us to change the policies that allow this sort of thing to happen so regularly'' and added that offshore drilling in California represents a “drop in the bucket when compared to production nationwide.''

He said that “the only foolproof way to protect our coasts, oceans and the marine economy in California that relies on them is to end drilling off our Southern California coast once and for all.''

Porter, Lowenthal, Levin and Rep. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, support efforts to curtail offshore drilling. Rep. Young Kim, R-Placentia, has not responded to messages on the issue.

Copyright 2021, City News Service, Inc.

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