Newport Beach City Council Members officially authorized a local emergency over the oil spill that took place more than a week ago.
Council members voted unanimously at their meeting Tuesday night to adopt a resolution ratifying the local emergency proclamation City Manager Grace Leung signed last week in response to the spill off the coast of Huntington Beach.
The emergency declaration will support the city’s ability to get federal and state disaster resources and reimbursements for the costs incurred from the spill, according to a staff report linked to the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting.
The emergency declaration will also allow Leung to expedite certain decisions related to the oil spill response — like contracts.
Beyond the emergency declaration the city is also exploring legal options to hold the people responsible for the spill accountable.
“It’s very upsetting for our community for this to happen. We want you to know that the city is looking at all legal options in holding those responsible,” said Councilman Kevin Muldoon at the city council meeting Tuesday.
Meanwhile, some residents and business owners who spoke at the meeting called on the council to ban offshore oil drilling.
“If we want future generations to enjoy the same things as we do today, we must begin to take action and put our community first over power and profit,” said one resident.
City Councilman Will O’Neill said the charter already bans offshore drilling within Newport Beach City’s jurisdiction.
“Our voters took a stand and we’ve taken the stand of no offshore drilling … it’s in our charter,” he said. “It’s been in the history of our city’s culture.”
Newport Beach officials first declared the oil spill an emergency last week along with a host of government agencies.
The Laguna Beach City Council also authorized their emergency declaration at their council meeting last week.
John Pope, a city spokesperson, said oil had reached Newport Beaches by Sunday Oct. 3.
“We got word Saturday about the presence of the oil. At first we didn’t think it was going to hit us and then by the afternoon, it became clear that it was going to hit our shores,” Pope said in a phone call Tuesday before the meeting.
According to the staff report, oil was seen ashore on beaches between 52nd Street and the Santa Ana River.
“The City issued a public notice advising residents and visitors to avoid contact with ocean water and the oiled areas of the beach,” reads the staff report.
Since then beaches and harbors have reopened as cleanup efforts continue.
Ratification of the emergency came just one day after Newport Beach officials announced their beaches had reopened, saying they’d hired Eurofins Calscience to conduct a study of their water, which tested at 10 different locations.
Two of those locations showed oil in the water, but at nontoxic levels.
The emergency declaration will remain in effect until it is terminated by the city council.
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.