Press Contact Persons:
Linda Krop, Environmental Defense Center (805) 963-1622 x106
Richard Charter, The Ocean Foundation (707) 875-2345


A diverse coalition of state and national conservation organizations today expressed strong opposition to SB 233, a bill being proposed by State Senator Robert Hertzberg that would unfairly increase the bias towards ocean disposal of abandoned offshore oil and gas rigs. [See letter below.] This new bill would unfairly emphasize short-term impacts of full removal of spent rigs while ignoring the benefits of completely removing disused oil platforms in compliance with the original contracts willingly signed by oil companies.

The groups’ main concern is that leaving part of abandoned oil rigs at sea will lead to long-term pollution of the marine environment. The rigs and surrounding debris can contain toxic chemicals including arsenic, zinc, lead and PCBs. In addition, the State could be liable for any accidents that result from these underwater hazards.

“Oil companies are trying to use this bill to blatantly renege on their longstanding contractual commitment to remove platforms when production is completed.” said Richard Charter, Senior Fellow with The Ocean Foundation.

“Most of the oil platforms off the coast of California are located in the Santa Barbara Channel, one of the most biologically rich places on the planet. To allow ocean dumping of unused oil platforms threatens this amazing ecosystem, and could set a precedent for other industries to pollute our marine environment,” said Linda Krop, Chief Counsel of the Environmental Defense Center, a public interest environmental law firm headquartered in Santa Barbara.

“This is another example of the public being asked to shoulder long-term risk for the immediate benefits of the oil companies,” said Jennifer Savage, California Policy Manager for the Surfrider Foundation.

The groups assert that ill-advised policy revisions being proposed in SB 233 would prematurely bias the State’s current requirement for objective case-by-case determinations and instead favor partial rig removal. They contend that the bill would also prejudice agencies against full removal by dismissing the toxic drill mud mounds found under many old offshore rigs from the liability falling to the State, while inadvertently removing such toxic waste from due consideration as an adverse environmental
impact. SB 233 also erroneously confuses short-term air quality impacts with greenhouse gas emissions in the required assessment of long-term impacts to the marine environment.

The groups further expressed concern that the citizens of the State of California would unnecessarily find themselves at risk in the chain of financial liability as the recipient of dumped offshore rigs, since the State has already confirmed, through years of prior efforts to warn ocean users of the presence of discarded abandoned Chevron rig shell mounds, that it is not feasible to effectively maintain a navigational hazard warning system to enable fishermen and other mariners to reliably avoid entanglement and seafloor disturbance around these toxic sites. This Thursday, August 11 is the final deadline for moving SB 233 in Sacramento. 

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August 5, 2016

Senator Robert Hertzberg
California State Senate
Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814

Re: SB 233 (Hertzberg): Oil and Gas Platform Decommissioning- OPPOSE

Dear Senator Hertzberg:

The undersigned organizations must respectfully oppose SB 233. Our organizations have serious concerns about proposed damaging amendments contained in the current draft of SB 233 that would clearly weaken existing law (AB 2503 – 2010) by explicitly increasing the bias towards partial removal of spent oil and gas rigs by focusing on short-term impacts of full removal and ignoring the benefits of removing oil platforms and restoring the marine environment as originally contractually agreed to by lessees.

Although we support the proposal to change the CEQA lead agency from the Ocean Protection Council to the California State Lands Commission, we are concerned that the other ill-advised revisions being proposed in SB 233 would prematurely bias the State’s case-by-case determination in favor of partial removal and against full removal in a number of ways.

Perhaps most importantly, some of the factors in existing 6613(c) are eliminated, including the requirement to consider the adverse effects of partial removal on water quality, the marine environment, and biological resources (see 6613(c)(3)), and to consider the benefits to the marine environment from full removal (6613(c)(4)). Deleting these requirements provides legislative intent that they are no longer required.

In addition, SB 233, as currently drafted, attempts to disconnect the toxic mud mounds and shell mounds inevitably found under offshore rigs from the chain of liability falling to the State, but in so doing, the proposed language is prone to be misconstrued to remove such mud and shell mounds from due consideration in the environmental balancing equation. SB 233 also erroneously confuses short-term air quality impacts and greenhouse gas emissions (which will be addressed as part of the CEQA review) in the required assessment of long-term impacts to the marine environment.

We would further point out that, under the terms of the amendments being proposed in SB 233, the State of California could remain in the chain of liability, as clearly established by the relevant 2001 Legislative Counsel Opinion pointing out the limits on indemnification requirements. The State has already learned through existing experience related to the Chevron shell mounds that it is not feasible to effectively maintain a navigational hazard warning system in this context.

It is our collective policy to strenuously oppose SB 233 in its proposed form.

Thank you for your kind attention.


Linda Krop
Chief Counsel
Environmental Defense Center

Mark Morey
Surfrider Foundation – Santa Barbara

Edward Moreno
Policy Advocate
Sierra Club California

Rebecca August,
Safe Energy Now! North Santa Barbara County

Amy Trainer, JD
Deputy Director
California Coastal Protection Network

Michael T. Lyons,
Get Oil Out!

Richard Charter
Coastal Coordination Program
The Ocean Foundation

Ron Sundergill
Senior Director – Pacific Region Office
National Parks Conservation Association

Cherie Topper
Executive Director
Santa Barbara Audubon Society

Alena Simon
Santa Barbara County Organizer
Food & Water Watch

Lee Moldaver, ALE
The Citizens Planning Association of Santa
Barbara County

Dr. Elizabeth Dougherty
Wholly H2O

Josh Hanthorn
Defenders of Wildlife

Ed Oberweiser
Ocean Protection Coalition.

Keith Nakatani
Oil and Gas Program Manager
Clean Water Action

Jim Lindburg
Legislative Director
Friends Committee on Legislation of California

Daniel Jacobson
Legislative Director
Environment California

Jennifer Savage
California Policy Manager
Surfrider Foundation