Baykeeper Update

Baykeeper Sponsors State Bill to Protect Bay and Wildlife from Toxic Spills

Baykeeper is sponsoring state legislation that would protect wildlife and San Francisco Bay waters if a toxic non-petroleum substance is spilled or dumped into the Bay. Senate Bill 718, introduced by Senators Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, was inspired by the January release of a mysterious sticky gray substance into San Francisco Bay, dubbed in press reports as “mystery goo,” that killed more than 200 birds and harmed many more.

California has an existing system for state-funded agencies to respond to oil spills in the Bay with cleanup and wildlife rescue. But the state agencies could not be activated during the recent spill, because they are authorized to respond only to petroleum-based spills. As a result, Baykeeper stepped in to coordinate a search and rescue operation for injured birds, along with Golden Gate Audubon, WildCare of Marin, and Wildlife Emergency Services. The International Bird Rescue Center cleaned and rehabilitated rescued birds, at its own expense.

Baykeeper and Audubon California are now co-sponsoring SB 718 to address this loophole. The bill creates a funding mechanism for spill response and wildlife rescue during spills of toxic non-petroleum substances into the Bay and all state waters. It also clarifies that the state’s top priority during a spill of any kind is to immediately protect waterways and wildlife.

SB 718 authorizes the Office of Spill Prevention and Response to borrow up to $500,000 from the state’s oil spill prevention fund for containment, cleanup, and wildlife rescue in spill events where the substance is non-petroleum based. Once the responsible parties for the spill are found, they would be required to reimburse the state for the costs of cleanup, including accrued interest.

“When a spill happens, it is essential that first responders can act quickly to protect sensitive shorelines and species,” said Sejal Choksi-Chugh, Interim Executive Director of San Francisco Baykeeper. “This bill will help ensure that state, local and nonprofit responders are working in concert—and with adequate resources—to prevent harm to San Francisco Bay and all of California's waters.”

Read the San Francisco Chronicle article on Senate Bill 718.