Ryah Cooley

Muratsuchi bill comes to a halt

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State Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-66th District) announces AB 2711 at the Hermosa Beach pier in April. He was joined by (left to right) South Bay 350’s Joe Galliani, Heal the Bay’s Sarah Sikich, Surfrider’s Craig Cadwallader, Hermosa Beach councilwoman Nanette Barragan, State Senator Ted Lieu, Stop Hermosa Beach Oil’s Stacey Amato, Earthworks’ Jhon Arbelaez,  and Los Angeles Waterkeeper’s Brian Meux. Photo by Kevin Cody

State Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-66th District) announced AB 2711 at the Hermosa Beach pier in April. He was joined by (left to right) South Bay 350’s Joe Galliani, Heal the Bay’s Sarah Sikich, Surfrider’s Craig Cadwallader, Hermosa Beach councilwoman Nanette Barragan, State Senator Ted Lieu, Stop Hermosa Beach Oil’s Stacey Amato, Earthworks’ Jhon Arbelaez, and Los Angeles Waterkeeper’s Brian Meux. Photo by Kevin Cody

A bill that was hailed by supporters of maintaining the ban on oil drilling in Hermosa Beach as financial insurance for the city has come to a halt in the state legislative process.

Assembly Bill 2711 was proposed by Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) in April and sought to allow Hermosa Beach to borrow $11.5 million from the State Tidelands Funds in order to help the city keep its ban on oil drilling. The bill was passed by the appropriations committee in May and was headed for a vote in the Assembly. But Muratsuchi moved the bill to the inactive file Tuesday, effectively killing it for this legislative cycle.

Lance Widman, a political science professor at El Camino College and long time Hermosa Beach resident, said this means the bill will not be going anywhere for the time being, though Muratsuchi may choose to reintroduce the bill at a later date, possible after residents of Hermosa Beach vote whether or not to allow oil drilling in their city in March 2015.

“It’s dead,” Widman said. “He doesn’t have the votes so why go through the exercise? He’s gotten all the good PR he could possibly get out of it.”

The city and E&B signed a settlement agreement in 2012 that calls for an election on whether to lift Hermosa’s ban on oil drilling. If successful, the ballot measure would allow E&B to install 30 oil wells at the city’s 1.3-acre maintenance yard. The agreement calls for the city to repay E&B $17.5 million if the ballot measure fails. E&B loaned the money to the city to help settle a lawsuit with Macpherson Oil.  So far the city has set aside about $6 million in the event the ban is maintained.

At the time, the city was facing up to $500 million in damages for having broken a 1984 agreement with Macpherson to allow oil drilling from the city maintenance yard. The drilling proposal has sharply divided the city. Many residents fear oil spills could ruin the city’s pristine beaches and negatively impact their health, while supporters of the project say the city could use the revenue it would bring.

Representatives from Muratsuchi’s office said the decision was made to put AB 2711l aside for now due to opposition from legislators who also oppose bans on fracking.

“Despite opposition from Sacramento special interests, I plan to continue my fight to help Keep Hermosa, Hermosa and will seek additional opportunities to assist the city,” Muratsuchi said in a statement.

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