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Proposed state legislation will protect whales and reduce pollution from tanker ships off the coast

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – A bill introduced in the California State Assembly will save whales from unintended injuries or death from large ocean tankers and overall it will have both environmental and health benefits if it is passed and signed by Governor Gavin Newsom.

Assemblymember Gregg Hart (D-Santa Barbara) explained will Assembly Bill 2298 on a Santa Barbara City College overlook with the Santa Barbara Channel at his back. It's called the California Protecting Blue Whales and Blue Skies program.

The goal is to have voluntary compliance by large tanker operators to slow their vessels down to ten knots along the coast and out 50 miles. That will prevent fatal ship strikes on endangered whale populations but it will also reduce air emissions caused by these tankers and impacting onshore levels. The bill is also authored by Assemblymember Steve Bennett (D-Ventura), and Assemblymember Damon Connolly (D-San Rafael).

“The Santa Barbara voluntary vessel speed reduction program is a prime example of what happens when we prioritize public health, protect the marine ecosystem, and showcase the beneficial partnership between shipping companies, public health agencies, marine sanctuaries, and environmental organizations,” said Hart. "The Santa Barbara Channel is now a globally recognized Whale Heritage Area. The entire world is watching what we do to save whales. ”

Executive Director of Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District (SBCAPCD), Aeron Arlin Genet said slowing the speed of the tankers and reducing the pollution is like eliminating more than 2-million cars a year off of the road in this area. She said emissions account for half of the unhealthy ozone levels.

Chief Counsel of the Environmental Defense Center, Linda Krop said, “The Environmental Defense Center helped launch this effort in 2007, after five blue whales were killed as a result of ship strikes. Since then, we have seen significant improvements and increased support by the shipping industry. It’s time to expand this successful program state-wide.”

The Santa Barbara Channel is home to migrating Pacific gray whales, humpback whales and blue whales.

Currently the gray whales are heading south to Mexico

Ten years ago there was a voluntary vessel speed reduction program initiated by Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties. In 2017 the Bay area air district joined in.

Tanker operators who join the program receive special recognition from the Governor.

Article Topic Follows: Environment & Energy
Santa Barbara

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John Palminteri

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