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Congressional Hearing Held in Irvine Investigating the Impacts of the Recent Oil Spill

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An investigative hearing to probe the recent Orange County oil spill’s economic, health and environmental impacts was held by members of Congress at the Irvine Ranch Water District on Oct. 18.

The recent and continuing oil spill emergency, now estimated at around 25,000 gallons of crude oil, has been posing threats to fishery owners’ livelihoods, converging fish and wildlife along the OC coast and harming local shops, restaurants and hotels. The spill has sparked debates on Capitol Hill regarding offshore drilling bans, safety regulations and the possibility of decommissioning offshore oil rigs

In response, congressional proceedings related to the spill and pipeline safety were held. After an Oct. 13 debate and an Oct. 14 hearing on the oil spill, a local hearing was held in Irvine the following Monday — convened by Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine) and two members of key subcommittees on the House Committee on Natural Resources, Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) and Rep. Mike Levin (D-San Clemente). The hearing focused on understanding the leak’s local impacts, rather than finding its cause.

“We will wait for the agencies to complete their investigations before talking about accountability,” Porter said. “But the first step toward accountability is to understand the damage. And that’s why we are here today, to hear directly from the community about what happened.”

Partisan conflict has marked past congressional proceedings as congressional Democrats campaigned for speeding up an end to offshore drilling.

“It’s critical that we don’t simply move on and wait for the next accident to occur. Offshore oil and gas infrastructure — both in the gulf and in the Pacific — is a ticking time bomb, and the California spill is part of a much larger disaster in the making,” Lowenthal said.

However, Republicans on the subcommittee said that decommissioning offshore rigs will further harm the environment and hurt Americans’ pocketbooks. Rep. Tom Tiffany (R-Wisconsin) claimed the country would have to pay for more energy and for a depleted standard of living if decommissioning is enacted. 

“Now, are we going to go forward and actually harm the environment with things like this that are going on, including this whole notion that we simply cannot have any fossil fuel infrastructure here in America?” Tiffany said.

Ellie Zhang is a Staff Writer. She can be reached at yitangz@uci.edu.