GOP lawmaker asks Biden for disaster relief after voting to defund it


Rep. Michelle Steel (R-CA) is seeking a federal disaster declaration after a major oil spill occurred in her congressional district.

Rep. Michelle Steel (R-CA) has requested federal help with an oil spill on Oct. 2 in her Southern California district just weeks after she voted to shut down the government and cut off billions of dollars' worth of federal disaster relief funding, including millions to fight fires and drought in her own state.

A reported 126,000 gallons of oil have leaked from an oil pipeline off the coast of Huntington Beach owned by Amplify Energy, leading to beach closures and warnings of ecological disaster. Officials say they have begun to find dead birds and fish washing up onto the shore.

Steel's 48th Congressional District includes the Huntington Beach region.

On Sunday, Steel sent a letter to President Joe Biden asking him to authorize a major disaster declaration for Orange County in response to the spill. In her letter, Steel requested "fast action" from Biden to approve the declaration and provide funds to needed for "a swift recovery and the support of assistance efforts for all Californians."

"It is imperative that the Federal Government assist in recovery efforts," Steel wrote. "I have serious concerns about the environmental impacts of the spill."

On Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, "We're working collaboratively with state and local partners to address efforts to finally contain this spill and assess impact and address potential causes."

Steel's request for assistance comes just two weeks after her vote on Sept. 21 against the Extending Government Funding and Delivering Emergency Assistance Act. The measure, which passed despite all 211 House Republicans present voting against it, includes funding to keep the government running and suspends the debt ceiling. It also contains $28.6 billion in vital funding for disaster relief, including millions to assist those affected by wildfires and drought in California.

In the 2021-2022 campaign cycle, Steel has benefitted from thousands of dollars in donations connected to the oil and gas industries. According to finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, Steel has received $9,871 from the oil and gas industry, with $6,000 of that total coming from political action committees funded by the industry.

Steel, along with her husband, has also held stock in oil and gas companies — including Maverick Resources, Phillips 66, and BP — that are engaged in offshore drilling, according to a financial disclosure report she submitted to the House in 2019.

"Michelle Steel's toxic relationship with the fossil fuel industry is harming tourism, killing local wildlife, and endangering OC beachgoers," Adrian Eng-Gastelum, a spokesperson for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said in a statement.

In recent months, Steel has voted in favor of legislation supported by industrial polluters.

In July, she voted against legislation that would limit the use of chemicals called perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, synthetic chemicals used in products like nonstick cookware and weatherproof clothing that have been scientifically linked to adverse health outcomes in humans.

In June, Steel voted against legislation that would disapprove of changes made to vehicle emission standards by the administration of Donald Trump, changes that rolled back environmental protection standards put in place under President Barack Obama.

Updated with details about Rep. Michelle Steele's (D-CA) stock holdings.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.