The California Coastal Commission Oil Spill Program is part of the Energy, Ocean Resources and Federal Consistency Division of the California Coastal Commission. Our roles in oil spill prevention, preparedness and response in California are diverse and challenging. The Commission's Oil Spill Program staff plays a critical role in facilitating statewide planning and coordination. We are committed to assisting federal, state and local agencies, citizens' groups, and the petroleum industry avoid the potentially catastrophic environmental and economic effects of a large-scale oil spill on the California coast, and ensure that when spills do occur, environmental impacts are reduced to the greatest extent possible.

for Oil and Gas Project Applications

Statutory Authority

Oil Spill in Port of SF

Our authority is prescribed primarily in two statutes: California Coastal Act of 1976 and the Lempert-Keene-Seastrand Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act of 1990. The California Coastal Commission also exercises regulatory authority under the Federal Coastal Zone Management Act for all of California’s coastal shoreline areas except for the San Francisco Bay.

Protect, maintain, and where feasible, enhance and restore the overall quality of the coastal zone environment and its natural and artificial resources. Protection against the spillage of crude oil, gas, petroleum products, or hazardous substances shall be provided in relation to any development or transportation of such materials. California Coastal Act, 1976

Incident Command System

The Incident Command System is a scalable organizational structure used to manage information and resources relating to a particular event. An event can be anything from a Fourth of July Parade to the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The system establishes a compartmentalized structure to a response effort so that information can be quickly transmitted from the source to the decision-makers, and resources can be deployed and supported efficiently and effectively.

Primary decision-making is done through the Unified Command which is supplied with information through functional groups which include:

  • Logistics
  • Operations
  • Planning
  • Finance

These functional groups cover all of the essential elements in any response ranging from response personnel to providing funding and transporting equipment. This system was developed as a part of the National Interagency Incident Management System.

What We Do

Santa Barbara Oil Spill
  • Review coastal development projects related to energy and oil infrastructure for compliance with the California Coastal Act and consistency with the Coastal Zone Management Act;
  • Attend all statewide and regional Harbor Safety Committee (HSC), Area Committee and subcommittee meetings (e.g., dispersants, sensitive sites, Area Contingency Plan update, oiled wildlife operations);
  • Review regulations for oil spill prevention and response, and provide input on these regulations’ consistency with Coastal Act regulations and policies;
  • Review oil spill contingency plans for marine facilities located in the coastal zone, and oil spill response plans for facilities located on the outer continental shelf;
  • Participate in the State Interagency Oil Spill Committee (SIOSC), SIOSC Review Subcommittee and Oil Spill Technical Advisory Committee meetings and assignments;
  • Participate in studies conducted under SB 2040 that will improve oil spill prevention, response and habitat restoration (e.g., offshore vessel traffic studies, Southern California Offshore Lightering Workgroup);
  • Participate in oil spill drills;
  • Participate in the development of planning materials for oiled wildlife rehabilitation facilities located in the coastal zone.

Our Role

The California Coastal Commission is a regulatory agency with permit authority. It is also a resource protection agency with the staff expertise to provide several types of assistance in the event of an oil spill. Listed below are a few examples of how the Coastal Commission staff may provide assistance to local, state and federal agencies and the responsible party in the event of an oil spill.

Incident Command System Roles

The Coastal Commission Oil Spill Program Staff fill key roles in the Incident Command System for oil spills impacting the California coastal and marine resources. We can provide assistance and information to the Unified Command on agency jurisdictions and permitting which will facilitate expeditious cleanup.

  • Command

    Liaison/Agency Representation

    Determine which spill response and clean-up activities require an emergency coastal development permit. Assist with Coastal Commission jurisdictional determinations.

    Command - Staff Assistance

    CCC Staff are trained in the Incident Command System and can serve as assistants to the Command Staff.

  • Planning

    Planning - Situation Unit

    CCC Staff has knowledge of coastal and marine resources and can assist in determining the spill response and clean-up options that will avoid or minimize adverse impacts to coastal and marine resources.


American Trader Oil Spill
  • Why Should the Coastal Commission Staff be Involved in Oil Spill Response?

    To determine whether clean up activities are considered “development” and therefore require an emergency coastal development permit pursuant to the California Coastal Act; For emergency permit purposes, determine whether clean up activities could adversely affect coastal resources; To provide technical, jurisdictional and resource assessment assistance.

  • How Quickly Can an Oil Spill Response Permit Related Activity be Approved?

    The Executive Director of the Coastal Commission can issue an emergency permit for clean-up or repair and maintenance activities determined to constitute development as defined in the Coastal Act. Issuing an emergency permit can be accomplished with a verbal approval on scene or by telephone. Issued to the Responsible Party of the spill, an emergency permit requires compliance with any associated conditions, including the submittal of an application for a follow-up regular coastal development permit within a specific period of time (e.g., 60 days). The Coastal Development Permit will evaluate impacts to the site specifically related to the permitted clean-up or repair and maintenance activity, and not from the oil spill. Completion of the permit process does not interfere with the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA).

  • What Type of Oil Spill Response Activities May Require a Permit?

    Oil spill response related activities that may require a coastal development permit include but are not limited to: Grading (to level off terrain to a smooth horizontal or sloping surface) or construction within the coastal zone for temporary storage (i.e., storage tank for oil), access roads or staging areas; Grading or clearing vegetation in sensitive resource areas; Berming (to construct a temporary barrier to stop flow of oil or water) a river mouth or a lagoon; Repair of pipelines and facilities under water or near sensitive habitats; Construction of retaining walls as oil spill containment barriers.

  • What are the benefits of a Coastal Development Permit (CDP) for an Oil Spill Response Activity?

    Protection of resources: Ensures protection of the resources through conditions and limitations set by the permit. In some instances, the CDP may be the only regulatory mechanism to implement other agencies’ resource protection and mitigation plans. Prevention of future spills: Ensures that damaged facilities are properly repaired to prevent repeated oil spills. Prevention of costly errors: Prevention of potentially costly mistakes during a spill response by limiting resource damage.

Report an Oil Spill

  • National Response Center
  • California Office of Emergency Services
  • California Fish & Wildlife, Office of Spill Prevention & Response
  • California Coastal Commission Oil Spill Program Coordinator
    • Jonathan Bishop
      California Coastal Commission
      45 Fremont Street, Suite 2000
      San Francisco, CA 94105
      Santa Cruz Office: (831) 427-4873
      San Francisco Office: (415) 904-5247
      Fax: (415) 904-5400

Supplemental Information