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Big Oil Trashes the California Coast

State and federal government crews continue to monitor the clean up of a big oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara as the size of the disaster has expanded.

The spill from a ruptured pipeline owned by Plains All American Pipeline expanded overnight from 4 miles long to two slicks stretching 9 miles along the coast, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. The pipeline carries crude oil from to Flores to Gaviota.

Preliminary reports indicated that the ruptured 24 inch pipeline in Goleta leaked an estimated 21,000 gallons of crude oil Tuesday. However, the pipeline company may have actually released as much as 105,000 gallons, with tens of thousands of gallons going into the ocean, according to the latest data from Plains All American.

A local first reported the spill coming from a leak in the pipeline at Refugio State Beach around noon on Tuesday, May 19. The Coast Guard dispatched members from the Marine Safety Detachment Santa Barbara and Sector Los Angeles-Long Beach upon initial notification, according to a statement from the Coast Guard.

Coast Guard crews stopped the leak by 3 p.m., according to Coast Guard Petty Officer Andrea Anderson. In addition to the Coast Guard, the California Office of Emergency Services, California Fish and Wildlife, county fire departments, and Exxon Mobil are currently on scene.

“Contractors are working to remove contained pockets of oil utilizing skimmers, vacuum trucks, absorbent pads, and absorbent boom,” the Coast Guard reported. “Additional cleanup actions are ongoing through the sandy beaches in the affected area. Approximately 3,000 feet of containment boom has been deployed.”

A fishing ban has been established by the Department of Fish and Wildlife until data reflects that the fish are safe to eat. The closure is initiated from one mile east to one mile west of Refugio State Beach and a distance of ½ mile off shore.

The Santa Barbara Health Department recommends that all residents avoid contact with areas where the oil spill is  present. “Refugio Beach remains closed and is considered a Hazmat area and only personnel with Hazmat credentials are authorized be on the beach,” said Susan Klein-Rothschild, Public Information Officer for the Health Department.

For more information about the spill, go to: Refugioresponse.com.

The spill is located near the Campus Point State Marine Conservation Area, an alleged “marine protected area” created under the privately funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative, as well as near the Refugio State Marine Conservation Area.

In one of the biggest environmental scandals in recent California history, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association, served as Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force that created the Campus Point State Marine Conservation Area and other so-called “marine protected areas.” She also served on the task forces for the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast from 2004 to 2012.

Reheis-Boyd leads the campaign to expand fracking and offshore oil drilling in California. The alleged “marine protected areas” created under the leadership of her and other corporate operatives on the MLPA Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force fail to protect the ocean from fracking, oil spills, oil drilling, pollution, corporate aquaculture, military testing and all human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering.

Oil industry says it “regrets” oil spill

Reheis-Boyd responded to the oil spill in a statement. She claimed, “As an industry, we are always concerned when accidents like this happen.  WSPA members strive to prevent any amount of spillage and have numerous programs and procedures designed to prevent such occurrences.  Once the incident is contained and thoroughly cleaned up, they will review the facts surrounding this incident and apply what they learn to prevent future accidents.”

“We are grateful for the quick response on the part of the Coast Guard, Plains All American, the Office of Oil Spill Prevention and Response and other responders that appear to have quickly limited the size of the spill.  And we appreciate the efforts of the local response agencies and volunteers who are working on cleanup efforts,” she said.

She noted that Plains All American, the owner of the pipeline, is a member of the Western States Petroleum Association.

Plains said it “deeply regrets this release has occurred and is making every effort to limit its environmental impact. Our focus remains on ensuring the safety of all involved. No injuries have been reported at this time.”

Spill a “stark reminder” of risks posed by expanded oil drilling

As reports of the spill and the clean up efforts were emerging, representatives of environmental groups responded to the disaster.

Becca Claassen, Santa Barbara County Organizer of Food & Water Watch, said the Santa Barbara spill provides even more reason for the state of California to ban fracking.

“The oil spill near Refugio State Beach is a stark reminder of the dangerous risks expanded oil drilling poses to Santa Barbara County’s environment and its residents’ quality of life,” said Classen. “This incident is all the more reason to ban fracking both offshore and onshore to help prevent future spills and protect Santa Barbara’s beautiful beaches and coastal environment.”

In 2013, an Associated Press and Freedom of Information Act investigation revealed that oil companies had conducted fracking offshore fracking operations in Southern California waters, including the Santa Barbara Channel, over a 20-year period. The oil companies were fracking Southern California waters at the same time that Reheis-Boyd served as the Chair of the MLPA panel for the South Coast from 2009 to 2012.

“There it is!” said Joey Racano of the Ocean Outfall Group, after he heard about the oil spill. “This has been a site of ongoing fracking offshore for years with no public knowledge or review. Christine Reheis Boyd, Western States Petroleum Association President AND chair of the Blue Ribbon Panel on the MLPA, here are the results of your handiwork and deceit.”

Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director with the Center for Biological Diversity, released the following statement about the spill:

“Time and again we’ve seen oil foul our coasts, whether it’s Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico or Santa Barbara. Oil spills are part of the ugly cost of fossil fuel development, made even worse by aging domestic infrastructure. It doesn’t have to be this way and it shouldn’t. We need to start aggressively moving away from fuel sources that are devastating for wildlife, people and our climate. If we don’t, what we’re seeing in Santa Barbara will continue be the norm.”

Volunteers are being coordinated through Calspillwatch.com

Senate Bill 788 closes offshore oil drilling loophole

The oil spill makes it even more urgent that the Legislature pass State Senator Mike McGuire’s California Coastal Protection Act of 2015 (Senate Bill 788), to address a glaring offshore oil drilling loophole in California law.

The California Coastal Sanctuary Act, passed in 1994, contains a loophole from the offshore extraction prohibition, Public Resources Code 6244, by allowing new oil leases if the “State Lands Commission determines that oil and gas deposits contained in tidelands are being drained by means of wells upon adjacent federal lands and leasing of the tidelands for oil or gas production is in the best interest of the State.”

SB 788 would eliminate this loophole by repealing PRC 6244 to ensure that the Coastal Sanctuary Act and Marine Life Protection Act are able to provide their intended protections for our coastal resources and prevent additional offshore oil extraction.

Yes, the Western States Petroleum Association President, the same oil lobbyist who oversaw the creation of fake “marine protected areas” in Southern California, and the oil companies are opposing SB 788.

Dan Bacher is an environmental journalist in Sacramento. He can be reached at: Dan Bacher danielbacher@fishsniffer.com.

 

More articles by:

Dan Bacher is an environmental journalist in Sacramento. He can be reached at: Dan Bacher danielbacher@fishsniffer.com.

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