Will the Huntington Beach Oil Spill Lead to New Regulations?

by | Nov 18, 2021 | Environmental Law

The oil spill off the coast of Huntington Beach has restarted many conversations around the oil and gas industry. Some are calling for an even greater emphasis on pumping restrictions and punishing oil companies as a response to this tragic event.

How Bad Is the Current Oil Spill?

In October CNN reported that approximately 127,000 gallons of crude oil have leaked into the Pacific Ocean. For reference, the Exxon Valdez spill was estimated at between 10 and 32 million gallons of oil leaked into the waterway, ranking it as the 54th largest oil spill in history.

However, the maximum scale of the spill is not at issue. Oil industry critics argue that the damage from even a relatively small oil spill is catastrophic to wildlife and the local environment. Additionally, the clean-up of beaches and other coastal areas is expensive, regardless of the extent of the accident.

What Are the Current Regulations?

Moving past the state of the spill or its place in history, the event is prompting an insistence for more aggressive legislation against oil companies. Indeed, a new initiative seeks to ban drilling efforts within three miles of the California coastline.

However, California already has punitive laws regarding oil spills and other ecological disasters. These measures dictate timelines and extremely high fines for parties responsible for spills of any size.

How Likely Are Stricter Regulations?

California is already a leader when it comes to environmental regulation in the US and could enact a bevy of increased restrictions on oil companies. This would naturally raise energy costs and place a difficult burden on energy companies.

That said, there is no clear indication at this time that California legislators will enact stricter environmental regulations for oil and gas companies doing business in the state. Still, energy companies that have oil and gas operations should take steps to anticipate and respond to more stringent restrictions, and consult attorneys who are experienced in California environmental regulatory compliance.