Under pressure to respond to a recent oil spill off her area’s coastline, Rep. Michelle Steele on Tuesday proposed a temporary shutdown ban along the coast, citing initial reports that an anchor could displace a failed pipeline.
“This crisis was preventable and it is important that we protect our waters and coastline,” said Steel of R-Seal Beach, whose 48th arrondissement includes most of Orange Coast County.
Marine experts say Steel’s proposal could lead to increased costs and delays for shipping companies, more air pollution and a greater risk of accidents at sea.
Steel’s Pacific Hazardous Incident Prevention Act of 2021 or the Shipping Act will prohibit cargo idle or anchorage within 24 nautical miles of the Orange County coastline. The ban will take effect immediately and will last “up to 180 days” or until President Joe Biden announces the end of the port lag caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused a sharp increase in the number of ships waiting at sea.
When asked where the ships would be anchored, Steel spokeswoman Danielle Stewart replied via email: “Anywhere except Coastal Orange County.”
According to Stephen D. Brown, professor of maritime transportation at the California State Maritime Academy in Vallejo, if ships are not allowed to anchor or stand idle within 24 miles of the coastline, they are likely to drift or move at very low speeds in unprotected waters. … …
“In fine weather, this probably won’t be a major problem, although ships are likely to burn more fuel and emit more exhaust fumes when operating at sea than if they were at anchor,” Brown said. “In inclement weather, ships will likely need to increase speed to better manage waves and avoid drifting long distances from ports.”
Vessel traffic is well regulated and monitored near ports, Brown noted, with dedicated traffic lanes, anchorages and radio points.
“There is no transport network further from the coast,” he said. “It can be a little chaotic as the ships choose the spot their captains find best. As a result, serious congestion problems may still arise, but in less regulated areas. ”
In any case, Brown said, “It’s hard to say if such a ban could have prevented the oil spill because we don’t yet know the details of what caused it.”
At a press conference on Oct. 8, US Coast Guard investigators said they had determined that the pipeline, flowing up to 131,000 gallons off the coast of Orange County earlier this month, was likely anchored by a large vessel “months to a year ago. , ”, Displacing it and losing the protective concrete casing. The researchers said that after the casing disappeared, corrosion or stress could have led to a 13-inch fracture that caused the recent spill.
But that investigation is still in its early stages, as the State Justice Department’s investigation was announced Monday, and Assembly hearings on the disaster are due to begin no earlier than November. Until the investigation is completed, US Senator Alex Padilla said at a press conference on Monday that he deemed it premature to propose concrete reforms.
Stewart of Steel’s office said the shutdown ban is “an immediate response to a problem that’s happening in real time.” She said other pipelines could be damaged as ships remain stuck off the coast.
Following a sharp drop in cargo entering the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach at the start of the pandemic, a report from the Pacific Maritime Association noted an unprecedented increase in volumes in April 2020. Such fluctuations continue for several months, and in the port. Los Angeles County set a new record for sales in June.
Combine this sharp but uneven demand with what the Pacific Maritime Association has defined as “equipment shortages, capacity constraints, and logistics bottlenecks throughout the supply chain.” And all of this has led to massive backups of container ships waiting off the coast of Southern California to unload their cargo, causing supply chain problems across the country.
If these boats keep moving, Stewart said there will be no backlog and local pipelines will not be compromised.
On Tuesday morning, a couple of dozen Steel critics – led by its 2022 Democrat opponent Harley Road – held a press conference outside its Huntington Beach office urging Steel to support a ban on all offshore drilling. Local Democrats and some Republicans have been calling for such a ban for several years and are stepping up the push after the spill.
Steel declined to state its position on offshore drilling. But in the past, she has supported the industry, including collecting donations from oil companies and investing in them – facts that Ruda highlights in a new CA-48 ad campaign that mentions the “brilliant” Michelle Steele.
Steel’s campaign, meanwhile, criticizes Ruda for raising funds in connection with the oil spill, citing his Saturday email that mentions the disaster and requests donations to the campaign.