Two months after Amplify Energy’s pipeline leaked about 25,000 gallons of oil into the ocean, Huntington Beach, or Surf City, USA officials have discovered another new oil sheen just off the coast. The unwelcome return of oil to the orange county coastline serves as a reminder that oil infrastructure places our environment at risk.
The risk is enormous; the Amplify Energy oil pipeline that ruptured in early October is part of a network of more than 6,853 miles of hazardous liquid conduits both on and off land along the California coast, and, not surprisingly, they have devastating ecological and economic impacts. For example, it is known that spill killed 45 birds, halted all fishing operations, and created severe damage to critical marshland habitats that support threatened species. Capping the leak and ‘cleaning up’ the oil from a spill is the first step. But these recurring events remind us that it is not enough to stop there.
The truth is even the oil that reaches our shores “safely” in pipelines that don’t rupture, harms our health and our environment. Notably, dirty fossil fuels are still at the heart of running our outdated transportation system. But electrifying cars, trucks and buses is one of the most efficient ways to provide cleaner air to communities and decrease our oil dependency.
California is off to a good start. For example, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent executive order commits California to have 100% of in-state sales of new cars and trucks be zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) by 2035. However, reaching the ambitious goals to reform our transportation system has its challenges. Electric vehicles (EVs) still tend to be more expensive than non-electric cars and trucks. In addition, Californians’ ability to drive EVs is dependent on community access to charging infrastructure. To date, the installation of EV charging infrastructure has been piecemeal, currently at around 76,000 charging stations. This rate of installation does not keep up with the target 1.2 million charging stations the state reports will be necessary by 2030. In 2015, The state legislature passed a bill requiring that cities and counties streamline EV charging permitting, but many parts of the state lag behind.
In order to get charging infrastructure, we must engage local community leaders, build support and provide the resources to jumpstart action to get on track for a million charging stations. The California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) has created an interactive map for California residents to see how prepared their community is for plug-in ZEVs.
This is so necessary because along with being the number one driver of greenhouse gasses that supercharge climate change, fossil fuels from vehicles release noxious fumes into the air. For California, all of this means that our state has the worst air quality in the country.
A report by Environment California and CALPIRG recently revealed that around 38.6 million Californians— approximately 98% of the state’s population— experienced more than 30 days with elevated ozone and/or particulate pollution. Overall, eight areas in California experienced more than 200 days with elevated ozone or particulate pollution– or both.
The oil spill in Huntington Beach is yet another loud alarm, warning us about the dangers of fossil fuel dependence. We can’t wait for the next oil spill or the next day with bad air quality. Now is the time to push for better EV infrastructure and accelerate our transition away from the fossil fuel economy that has already caused too much harm.
Conservation Campaign Associate, Environment California
Ben leads Environment California’s campaigns to tackle conservation issues at the local and state level. Ben lives in Alameda, where he enjoys playing basketball, cooking and taking walks on the beach.