Got a sinking feeling? Cheer up, our new law protects the Bay from non-floating oils

Oct 14, 2019

San Francisco Bay is a major oil transportation corridor. As refineries ramp up production of heavy crude, the risk of a disastrous sinking oil spill is increasing.

In a victory to offset that risk, Governor Newsom has signed into law Baykeeper's landmark heavy crude oil spill legislation, AB 936. 

Baykeeper drafted this bill because of the growing threat to the Bay posed by spills of heavy crude oils like tar sands, asphalt, and Venezuelan crude. These oils sink quickly in water, smothering plants and animals in a sticky toxic sludge. 

Cleanup efforts of a tar sands oil spill in Michigan's Kalamazoo River lasted for over five years and cost over a billion dollars. Almost a decade later, oil remains at the bottom of the river, and the ecosystem has yet to recover.

Unfortunately, San Francisco Bay is becoming more and more vulnerable to a similar horrific scenario. Only a rapid and effective response can prevent the Bay from being permanently damaged.

AB 936 will help by improving contingency planning, strengthening safety standards, updating clean-up methods, and requiring notice to regulators, response agencies, first responders, and the public of when and where crude oils, including heavy crudes, are being transported.

"Tankers carrying heavy crude are already crisscrossing the Bay," says Baykeeper Staff Attorney Ben Eichenberg. "With AB 936, we have more tools for tracking crude oils across the state and responding effectively to a spill."   

In addition to AB 936, Baykeeper has co-authored and helped pass 12 new state laws to prevent and respond to oil spills since 2007, when the Cosco Busan container ship spilled 53,000 gallons of fuel into the Bay.  All of these new laws help protect San Francisco Bay, the California coast, and frontline communities from oil spills throughout the state.

Thank you to State Assemblymember author Robert Rivas and co-sponsor NRDC.  And thanks to all of you who signed Baykeeper’s action alert urging state legislators to pass this important legislation!

Pictured, above: an oil tanker crossing San Francisco Bay (Autonomous Imagery).

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