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By Rep. Mike Levin

Our coastal communities are experiencing another grave ecological disaster.

The oil spill that began on Saturday, Oct. 2, off the coast of Orange County is devastating, and it’s devastating to see the wildlife and marine animals that are being harmed or killed by this spill.

I’m also thinking of all of the Californians who deeply cherish our coast and ocean, as well as the small business owners who rely on our coastal activity for their livelihoods.

This kind of disaster is exactly why I introduced my American Coasts and Oceans Protection Act to prohibit any new leasing for the exploration, development, or production of oil or natural gas along the Southern California coast, from San Diego to the northern border of San Luis Obispo County.

It’s time to put our environment and our coastal economy first, not the fossil fuel companies that profit while polluting our coastline. Now, we’re seeing, yet again, what happens when we put the fossil fuel industry ahead of our communities and our planet.

For every massive oil spill like this one, we are not only adding to the pollution of our oceans, but also directly jeopardizing thousands of coastal-related jobs.

This isn’t the first time our communities experienced an oil spill disaster. More than 4 million gallons of oil have been released into the Pacific Ocean as a result of the 1969 Santa Barbara blowout, the Refugio Beach spill of 2015, and other leaks from oil rig and pipeline activity, affecting more than 935 square miles of ocean. This spill has pushed that number even higher.

This isn’t a partisan issue. I consistently ask constituents if anyone wants to see more drilling off our California coast. No hands go up. No Republican hands, no Democratic hands, and no Independent hands. Californians have made it clear that they are strongly opposed to new offshore oil and gas drilling along our coast.

The previous administration in Washington repeatedly pushed to expand offshore drilling and rolled back crucial safety regulations that help prevent spills, and now, here we are once again in the aftermath of a catastrophic spill.

We need to be focusing on cutting emissions and protecting coastal communities from rising sea levels, not extracting more oil so the fossil fuel industry can profit. That is why the Build Back Better Act is so crucial.

I’m proud to say that we successfully secured a provision in the Build Back Better Act that mirrors my legislation to end new offshore drilling activity off the Southern California coast. In fact, the provision would protect the entire West Coast.

I’m committed to passing the entirety of the President’s Build Back Better agenda, and in the wake of this environmental disaster, it’s more important than ever that we get that legislation across the finish line.

U.S. Representative Mike Levin represents the 49th Congressional District, which includes the South Orange County cities of Dana Point, San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano. He was reelected for a second term in 2020 and resides in San Juan Capistrano with his wife and two children.

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