Newsom signs bill that lets state contribute more to Long Beach’s oil abandonment fund

The state of California will again contribute to a fund intended to pay for the eventual abandonment of Long Beach’s oil wells.

On Sunday, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed 31 bills, including Assembly Bill 353, which allows the state to resume paying into the Oil Trust Fund, the primary source to cover the costs associated with cleaning up oil wells within Long Beach’s Tidelands.

Long Beach officials were pleased with Newsom’s signing of the bill.

“The city is very supportive of this bill, and we are grateful it’s been signed,” said Mayor Robert Garcia. “This bill will increase well abandonment funding and support remediation efforts as we transition away from fossil fuels.”

Abandoning and cleaning up Long Beach’s oil wells is estimated to cost $1.2 billion, according to city officials. AB 353, introduced by 70th District Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell, eliminates a cap on the fund, which has been maxed at $300 million for the last eight years.

The state’s share of that tab is about $900 million, according to Bob Dowell, director of the city’s Energy Resources Department. The city, meanwhile, will pay $133.3 million and private oil owners will pay $116 million, according to Dowell.

Long Beach officials are planning to abandon the Tidelands oil wells by 2035.

O’Donnell, who will retire when his current term ends early next year, said the bill is his last as a member of the state Assembly.

“Our Long Beach community and environment must be protected when it comes time to safely close down the Tideland oil wells,” O’Donnell said in a statement on Monday. “A.B. 353 will ensure that Long Beach and its residents are not left holding the bag to pay for the cleanup costs.”

Dowell said last month that the bill “assures our partner in this, the state, is moving in the same direction we are.”

O’Donnell has introduced versions of the bill before, but they all died in committee. Last year, he said the state’s healthy budget, as well as the Oct. 1, 2021, Orange County oil spill, made the case for finally passing the bill more imperative.

State bill to increase oil well abandonment funds for Long Beach is on its way to Newsom’s desk

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Anthony Pignataro is an investigative reporter and editor for the Long Beach Post. He has close to three decades of experience in journalism leading numerous investigations and long-form journalism projects for the OC Weekly and other publications. He joined the Post in May 2021.
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