Oil Spill Reform State Legislation

Oiled Wildlife Protection Bill Fails in 2012

With a lack of funding threatening the state’s ability to rescue and care for wildlife during an oil spill, Baykeeper sponsored a 2012 bill, SB 1192, to fully fund oiled wildlife rescue. Though the oil and shipping industry initially supported the necessary fee increase (less than a penny per barrel of oil), the Western States Petroleum Association later withdrew its support, and the bill never received a vote. During 2013, as previous fees are phased out, the funding need will be even greater.

Oil Spill Funding Bill Signed Into Law in 2011

In October 2011, Governor Brown signed a Baykeeper-sponsored bill, AB 1112, to provide much-needed funding for oil spill prevention and response measures in California. The budget for California's Office of Spill Prevention and Response was set for huge cuts because oil companies were fighting a modest increase in fees to fund the program. The law raised the fee by 1.5 cents per barrel of oil. The law also requires stricter oversight of ships transferring fuel on the open water. AB 1112 provides strong protections for the Bay and coastlines statewide.

Oil Spill Bills Signed Into Law after the Cosco Busan Spill in 2007

Following the 2007 Cosco Busan oil spill in San Francisco Bay, Baykeeper worked with state legislators to develop legislation to improve oil spill preparedness and response measures in California. Eight bills related to oil spill response were signed into law by Governor Schwarzenegger in 2008.

Oil Spill Preparedness
SB 1739 (Simitian) ensures first-responders are adequately trained and prepared to take action on marine oil spills by ensuring that routine, thorough emergency drills and practices are taking place. The bill makes it mandatory that oil spill response organizations demonstrate, through inspections and unannounced drills, that they can deploy the response resources outlined in their contingency plans.

Inland Oil Spills
AB 1960 (Nava) increased oil spill fines to require tougher oversight of inland oil-producing facilities. It also set new standards and provided new abilities to the Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources in the effort to enhance oil spill response in California.

AB 2911 (Wolk) implemented the Department of Finance’s recommendation to specify the Department of Fish and Game's Oil Spill Prevention and Response program as the lead in preventing, responding to, and mitigating inland oil spills. AB 2911 properly placed responsibility on these trained, on-the-ground responders.

Communication and Coordination
AB 2031 (Hancock) requires prompt notification of local emergency responders when a spill occurs and ensures that if an oil spill happens, local volunteers will be trained to respond and adequately equipped with booms and cleanup gear. (Sponsored by San Francisco Baykeeper.)

AB 2935 (Huffman) mandates that the Office of Emergency Services coordinate local and regional agency action to create the greatest degree of readiness for future oil spills. The bill ensures better protection of sensitive areas like Brooks Island, Richardson Bay, and the Marin coastline.

Oiled Wildlife
AB 2911 & 2912 (Wolk) make the Oiled Wildlife Care Network responsible for the proactive search for and rescue of oiled wildlife, and improves the number of volunteers and capacity to train volunteers used in rescuing oiled wildlife.

Increasing Oversight of the Board of Pilot Commissioners
The Board of Pilot Commissioners issues licenses to the local mariners who bring ships in and out of the bay by requiring audits and annual status reports. Questions about the Board arose after the pilot in the Cosco Busan, Capt. John Cota of Petaluma, was found to have been suffering sleep apnea and taking medication that can impair judgment.

SB 1217 (Yee) requires the Board of Pilot Commissioners to submit an annual report to the Legislature that provides information on each pilot and trainee, vessel movements, investigations of reported incidents, and the financial status of the Board of Pilot Commissioners.

SB 1627 (Wiggins) placed the Board of Pilot Commissioners under the direct oversight of the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, as opposed to its former independent status. The bill also clarifies that all additional state administrative costs are borne by the Board Operations special fund and created new special funds for pilot and trainee training.

Oil Spill Bills Vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger in 2008

SB 1056 (Migden) would have required cleanup crews to respond to oil spills no more than two hours after a spill in San Francisco Bay, instead of the current requirement of six hours.

AB 2547 (Leno) would have established California Oil Spill Prevention and Cleanup Technology Grants to encourage the development of new spill response technologies. It also would have required a minimum containment response when a spill occurs in low-visibility conditions, mandated a mutual aid agreement that enabled spill response organizations to utilize the resources of another when needed, and required that vital local response resources be ready to respond within 30 minutes.

AB 2032 (Hancock) would have increased the cap on the OSPAF barrel fee from 5 to 8 cents, to provide a reliable long-term funding source for the state's oil spill program and fund the program improvements the other bills made.

Oil Spill Bills Not Passed by the Legislature in 2008

AB 2441 (Lieber) would have required tugboat escorts for vessels carrying hazardous materials within California's harbors, the same as oil tankers are now required to have. 

SB 965 (Lowenthal) would have funded technology to provide real time information on currents in the Bay.