Rep. Alan Lowenthal for the first time in chairing a subcommittee hearing on Energy and Mineral Resources. He is co-charing with Rep. Paul Gosar, D-Arizona, (pictured left) in Washington DC on Tuesday Feb. 12, 2019. Photo by Kelly Puente.

Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, who chairs the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, called for a “multi-agency Biden administration investigation” into the oil spill in Huntington Beach. Lowenthal is planning to hold a hearing about the leak and the mop-up effort.

“It is absolutely critical that we determine the cause of this spill and determine what steps Congress can take to prevent such spills in the future,” Lowenthal said in a statement. “For far too long, the offshore drilling industry has hidden behind adhering to the bare minimum of safety measures—prioritizing profits over safety, public health and environmental protection. This has to end.”

Lowenthal said it was important that “those responsible for this spill are held accountable and made to pay for the environmental disasters they have caused—not the U.S. taxpayers. The oil industry frequently shifts the costs of cleaning up their messes, either in the midst of a disaster or when they simply walk away, to the taxpayer. This too must end.”

Lowenthal said that “offshore fossil fuel production in federal waters presents one of the highest risks to the public and our environment and must be one of the first sources that are completely phased out. Congress must take steps to make this happen as soon as possible to prevent these recurring ecological disasters, including passing the West Coast Ocean Protection Act to permanently ban oil and gas drilling in federal waters off the coast of California, Oregon and Washington.”

Rep. Mike Levin, D-Dana Point, ramped up his calls today to ban offshore drilling in light of the oil spill.

“Obviously, I’m quite concerned for my constituents and beaches,” Levin told City News Service. “My belief is we need to end all offshore drilling and phase out existing offshore drilling.”

Levin has introduced legislation to do just that, and similar language is included in the Biden administration’s Build Back Better infrastructure bill.

“On page 984 is our language that would ban new drilling off the California coast and other parts of the country as well,” Levin said.

Levin recalled meeting with former Interior Secretary David Bernhardt on the issue during the Trump administration.

“I said, ‘What assurance can you give me that you’ll respect the will of the overwhelming majority of people along the Southern California coast?'” Levin said. “This is truly a non-partisan consensus. We need to end off-shore drilling. But he said, ‘I will not give you any assurance.’ And as we all know they were actively trying to see if they could increase the amount of drilling.”

While the Biden administration is supportive of the efforts to ease up on off-shore drilling, Levin said, it needs to be written into law.

Levin said off-shore drilling makes no sense in Southern California. “There’s no reason we should be doing off-shore drilling when so much of our economy is dependent on tourism,” Levin said.

“Think of all the small businesses impacted by this as well because our beaches will be closed for weeks. This is a huge hit to our local economy, unfortunately.”

He has an ally in Sen. Alex Padilla, D-California, who is a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

“We’ve seen time and time again how damaging offshore oil spills are to our coastal ecosystems as well as to our economy,” Padilla said in a statement. “This is yet another preventable environmental catastrophe that threatens to cause years of environmental harm to critical marine and wetland ecosystems and major economic hardships for local communities. My office is closely monitoring the containment and cleanup efforts, and I will do everything I can to ensure Orange County receives the assistance it needs.”

Padilla added, “We have the power to prevent future spills. That’s why I’m committed to ending offshore oil drilling. As Congress prepares sweeping new infrastructure and climate legislation to address our nation’s needs, the message is clear: We must act urgently to end our use of dangerous fossil fuels. I urge my colleagues to move quickly to pass the West Coast Ocean Protection Act and prevent yet another unnecessary environmental tragedy.”

Padilla is a co-sponsor of the West Coast Ocean Protection Act, which would ban oil and gas drilling off the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, also spoke in favor of ending off-shore drilling.

Orange County Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said the leak doesn’t just have “an impact on tourism, but an impact on sea life and water fowl.”

She said some business leaders believe that off-shore oil drilling can keep down the price of gas, but, she added, “How do we balance the environment versus business interests? I understand all sides of the equation, and so very difficult decisions have to be made.”

Activists with Consumer Watchdog and FracTracker Alliance issued a statement Monday calling on Gov. Gavin Newsom to stop issuing oil permits in state waters.

“This current spill makes it clear like never before that there is no such thing as safe proximity to oil drilling,” said Liza Tucker of Consumer Watchdog. “Gov. Newsom must stop issuing both offshore and onshore permits immediately and set a barrier of 2,500 feet between vulnerable communities and oil operations if his own oil and gas supervisor won’t.”