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Congressional Candidate Dave Min Continues Crusade Against Coastal Oil Drilling Despite Economic Concerns

Though SB 559 was killed in Committee, Senator Min hopes it will “provide a model for future legislators to take up.”

Last week, California State Senator and congressional candidate Dave Min released a statement in response to the discovery of an oil sheen discovered off the coast of Huntington Beach. Currently, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife is investigating whether or not the sheen resulted from an oil spill. Senator Min used the opportunity to publicly reiterate his position on environmentalism and remind his constituents of his desire to ban coastal oil drilling. 

“While we are still awaiting further details, I just want to emphasize that the offshore oil platforms off the coast of California are ticking time bombs,” wrote Min. “There will be more oil spills unless and until these operations are shut down.”

Earlier this year, Senator Min’s proposed SB 559, which would have ended offshore oil drilling under existing leases in California waters, was killed in the State Senate’s Appropriations Committee. Neither the recent statement nor the now-dead Senate Bill attempt to address the immense economic repercussions a ban on coastal oil drilling would entail, including job losses and inevitable increases in gas prices at a time when Californians are already paying nearly 40% higher than the national average. And despite claims that oil companies do not care about maintaining their facilities, California already has strict regulations in place for offshore drilling; further restrictions would harm the state’s economy without providing anything more than marginal-at-best environmental benefits.

“From the perspective of a refiner and fuel supplier, California is the most challenging market to serve in the United States,” wrote Valero’s Vice President of Government Affairs, Scott Folwarkow, in a letter to Governor Newsom. “California has imposed some of the most aggressive, and thus expensive and limiting, environmental regulatory requirements in the world… Adding further costs, in the form of new taxes or regulatory constraints, will only further strain the fuel market and adversely impact refiners and ultimately those costs will pass to California consumers.”

While Senator Min is quick to point out that oil companies like Chevron and Western States Petroleum Association led an expensive lobbying effort in 2023—which would make sense given the sheer volume of new legislation, regulations, and taxes proposed that year—he conspicuously fails to mention the millions spent by the Energy Foundation or the Green Tech Action Fund. They are among a growing litany of environmental and special interest lobbying groups already deeply ingrained within California’s legislative supermajority—the would-be beneficiaries of any new regulations imposed on oil companies, especially a coastal drilling ban, given their sizable investments against the fossil fuel industry. 

“Fossil fuels investments are long-term commitments that require confidence in a payoff,” writes author and energy industry expert Alex Epstein. “Our government, often colluding with activists, incessantly discourage fossil fuel investments directly and by threatening the industry’s future.”

Despite California’s reputation as a bastion for progressivism and strict environmental regulation, similar attempts to outlaw offshore drilling have failed at seemingly every opportunity. Last year, the late U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein championed the West Coast Ocean Protection Act of 2023, a revised version of a bill introduced two years earlier that never made it out of the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. The newest version will likely meet the same fate. In 2022, Monterey County attempted to enforce their own oil drilling ban—an initiative that was quickly struck down by the California Supreme Court.

“While I am leaving the State Legislature after this year,” Min continued, “I am hopeful that SB 559 will provide a model for future legislators to take up, in California and at the federal level.”

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