SB 44 Signed by Governor Brown

Source: Heal the Ocean

Governor Jerry Brown has responded to the amazing outpouring of support from residents of Summerland, Santa Barbara, and across California as well as an army of Heal the Ocean supporters in favor of SB44 (Jackson) by signing the bill into law.

Senate Bill 44, the Coastal Oil Well Clean Up and Remediation Act, will require the California State Lands Commission to monitor and plug old “orphaned” oil wells in California waters when the original oil company that operated the well no longer exists and cannot be held responsible. It also directs up to $2 million dollars annually, derived from state mineral leases, to a fund set aside for the remediation of improperly abandoned legacy wells. With this fund, the Commission will begin to identify leaking, abandoned wells and prioritize capping the highest risk wells first.

“I am pleased Governor Brown signed this bill into law. It will protect our beaches, public health, and our coastal economy,” said Jackson. “There are far too many abandoned oil wells that must be capped to prevent leaks and fumes that pollute our beaches and ocean waters and affect our children, visitors, birds, fish, and other marine life.”

The bill had bipartisan support throughout the legislative process. Jackson introduced the bill after a significant release of oil onto Summerland Beach, south of Santa Barbara, prompted health warnings and beach closures in 2015. The oil was believed to be coming from the Becker Onshore Well and other similar wells dating back to the late 1890s, long before the creation of any regulatory agencies or requirements about how to properly cap abandoned wells were put in place. The wells are believed to have been leaking oil for decades, long after the operating company ceased to exist.

Earlier this year, the California State Lands Commission identified approximately 200 of these so-called “legacy” oil wells off the coast of Santa Barbara County. Summerland Beach alone has approximately 192 of these uncapped wells, and another eight were recently exposed near the Ellwood and Rincon fields off the Santa Barbara coast, with two of those oil wells visibly leaking oil.

This legislation will provide $2 million per year to cap leaking oil wells off the coast of California for the next 7 years, starting in 2018. Heal the Ocean “dogged” this legislation through every single House and Senate committee, calling for HTO members to write letters and cards every single step of the way. You all came through! 

Jackson had introduced a similar bill to SB 44 last year but it was vetoed by Governor Brown. Since then, survey work by the California State Lands Commission and Heal the Ocean exposed the severity and extent of the problem of uncapped wells.

We are told that the aerial survey commissioned by HTO and completed by Aqueos Subsea and Planck Aerosystems just in time for a critical vote, had much to do with SB44 getting to the Governor’s desk. The aerial survey pinpointed definite oil-capping targets, and took away doubt and guessing. The Planck Aerosystems aerial survey will now be followed by a dive survey by Aqueos Subsea – all of this possible because of generous funding from Manitou Fund, Minnesota, the family foundation of  Summerland resident Nora McNeely Hurley.

Edhat Staff

Written by Edhat Staff

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