WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Michelle Steel (R-Calif.) has carefully monitored efforts to salvage Southern California’s wetlands after a major offshore oil spill, but the lawmaker’s record shows she accepted thousands of campaign dollars from oil and gas companies and voted against disaster relief funding for other cities.
A breached undersea pipe, apparently connected to the Elly oil rig, spilled an estimated 25,000 gallons of crude oil off the coast of Huntington Beach and Newport Beach on Oct. 2, covering 13 square miles of the Pacific Ocean.
Steel represents many of the communities impacted by the spill, and has been pushing for federal, state and local assistance to clean up the mess.
But less than a week before the spill, Steel voted against a government funding bill that provided $28.6 billion in disaster relief funds for communities devastated by Hurricane Ida.
She also accepted $37,041 from oil and gas companies during her 2020 campaign, according to Federal Election Commission data. Among those donors was Phillips 66, the largest customer of the Houston-based oil company Amplify Energy, which owns the Elly oil rig.
Neither Steel’s District 48 congressional office nor her campaign office in Surfside responded to multiple interview requests.
The oil spill drew lawmakers’ attention to a provision of President Joe Biden‘s Build Back Better Act, which would ban future offshore drilling projects in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
Many of Steel’s Republican colleagues have remained united in opposing the bill, unwilling to hand Biden a substantial first-term victory.
Facing pressure from her constituents and colleagues, Steel has not stated her position on the bill. In Washington last Tuesday, she did not respond to reporters’ questions about whether she would support an offshore drilling ban. Instead, she shifted attention to her efforts to clean up the coastline.