Thursday, June 25, 2015

Protesters urge Calif: Halt Santa Barbara offshore drilling expansion


Photo of Wednesday's rally in Goleta courtesy of the Center for Biological Diversity


Protesters urge state officials to halt Santa Barbara offshore drilling expansion 

Santa Barbara Oil Spill clean up cost soars to $92 million 

by Dan Bacher 
Censored News
As crews struggle to clean up crude oil off the beaches and wildlife along the Santa Barbara County Coast, dozens of people with an inflatable pipeline, hazmat suits, and a 20 foot tall mock oil derrick gathered at the Goleta Valley Community Center outside Santa Barbara on Wednesday, June 24, to urge the State Lands Commission to reject Venoco’s bid to expand offshore drilling. 

The proposed project would feed oil into the same decades-old and badly corroded pipeline, owned by Plains All American Pipeline, that burst on May 19, spilling more than 100,000 gallons into the coastal environment. 

In one of the biggest environmental scandals in recent California history, the very same oil industry lobbyist who is pushing for increased offshore drilling and fracking in California - and is now serving as the lobbyist for Plains All American - is the exact same lobbyist who chaired the panel that created the "marine protected areas" that are now being fouled by the Santa Barbara Oil Spill. 

The impact of the oil spill upon seabird, mammal, fish and the ecosystem has been devastating. According to BirdRescue.org, 414 animals have been collected as of June 22. The group has reported 57 live and 192 dead seabirds and 62 live and 103 dead mammals since the spill began. Twenty-six washed Brown Pelicans have been released as of June 21. 

The cost of cleaning up the spill has soared to $92 million, according to Patrick Hodgins of Plains All American Pipeline. Hundreds of workers have spent over a month excavating contaminated soil and scraping rocks after the May 19 pipeline rupture off Refugio State Beach. The spill released up to 101,000 gallons of crude oil. (http://www.scpr.org/news/2015/06/24/52656/santa-barbara-oil-spill-pipeline-firm-couldn-t-rea/

“California prohibits new oil and gas leasing in state waters for good reason,” said Alex Favacho, a senior political science major at UC Santa Barbara. “We’ve seen how offshore drilling causes oil spills that pollute our beaches and kill marine wildlife. We want state officials to protect our beautiful coast by rejecting Venoco’s dangerous proposal to drill for more oil.” 

The protest and rally are the first of two key events this week. State Sens. Hannah-Beth Jackson and Das Williams will hold a public hearing on the oil spill on Friday, June 26 in Santa Barbara. 

As clean up costs of the oil spill continue to rise, political pressure is increasing on Gov. Jerry Brown to protect local communities from harmful drilling, according to a news release from Californians Against Fracking, a coalition of about 200 environmental business, health, agriculture, labor, political and environmental justice organizations working to win a statewide ban on fracking and other dangerous extraction techniques in California. 

“From oil spills to drinking water pollution, the oil industry is causing incredible harm to California,” said Rebecca Claassen, Santa Barbara County resident and organizer for Food & Water Watch. “In addition to the catastrophic Santa Barbara oil spill, we’ve also recently learned that oil companies are pumping toxic waste into underground water supplies and selling polluted wastewater to farmers in the Central Valley. We need the governor’s leadership to protect communities from the inescapable problems of oil extraction.” 

Claussen noted that the public hearing on Venoco’s bid to expand drilling comes just a little over a month after a corroded Plains All American pipeline ruptured at Refugio State Beach, creating a massive oil spill that killed hundreds of birds and marine mammals and closed down beaches essential to the area’s economy and day-to-day life. 

Using a loophole in the state law that prohibits leasing state waters for oil and gas drilling, as well as the failure of the state to fully implement the Marine Life Protection Act of 1999, Venoco has asked the State Lands Commission to approve a lease swap that would allow the company to drill for more oil on protected waters off the California coast. If approved, that oil would be transported to the Las Flores facility and through the Plains All American Pipeline. 

“The last thing this oil-drenched area needs is more drilling,” said Michelle Bednash, a resident of Goleta. “The State Lands Commission should safeguard our public lands and focus on decommissioning offshore oil wells and promoting sustainable energy.” 

Linda Krop, Chief Counsel of the Santa Barbara-based Environmental Defense Center added: 

“Venoco should not be allowed to drill into an area that is part of the California Coastal Sanctuary and a Marine Protected Area,” Krop said. “This proposal will only increase the risk of oil spills and gas leaks, in the wake of the most devastating oil spill to hit our coast since 1969. It will be years if not decades before we recover from this spill, and we cannot risk further damage to our beaches, fisheries, and wildlife.” 

The California Coastal Sanctuary is one of the most biologically rich areas in the world, providing key habitat for whales, sea otters, sea turtles and more than 500 fish species. It is also a critical economic engine for the region for jobs and tourism. 

“The oil spill has already killed hundreds of animals, including dolphins, sea lions and pelicans, and the death toll just keeps rising,” said Kristen Monsell, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “If we've learned anything from this spill, it's that dirty fossil fuel development doesn't belong in our ocean. Approving a project that would feed more crude into the same pipeline system that just spewed thousands of gallons of oil into the Pacific would be a serious mistake.” 

One thing that we have also learned is that greenwashing Big Oil lobbyist oversight of "marine protected areas," as corporate "environmental" NGOs and state officials officials did under the privately-funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative, has very dangerous consequences, since it greatly bolstered Big Oil's already tight grip on the regulatory apparatus. 

While Governor Brown, other state officlals and the mainstream media continue to falsely portray California as a "green" state, the devastation of the oil spill shows the fragility of California's ocean waters - and exposes the failure of state and federal officials to stop a disaster like this, due to the capture of the state's regulatory apparatus by Big Oil. 

Unfortunately, in the reports from the Associated Press, other mainstream media and most of the "alternative" media you won't see one word about one of the most troubling and significant aspects of this oil spill - the fact that Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association and a lobbyist for Plains All American Pipeline and other oil companies, served as the Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create the same "marine protected areas" that are now being fouled by crude oil. 

Four "marine protected areas" created under her "leadership" - the Goleta Slough, Campus Point, Naples and Kashtayit State Marine Conservation Areas - are now imperiled by the oil spill that started at Refugio State Beach, devastating over 9 miles of the Santa Barbara County Coast. 

That's right - the very same person who is lobbying for increased offshore drilling and fracking in California - and is serving as the lobbyist for Plains All American - is the exact same oil lobbyist who chaired the panel that created the "marine protected areas" that are now being fouled by the Santa Barbara Oil Spill. And while she served as the chair for the South Coast task force - and served on the panels for the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast from 2004 to 2012 - oil companies were fracking like crazy off the California coast. 

In 2013, an Associated Press and Freedom of Information Act investigation revealed that oil companies had conducted over 200 offshore fracking operations in Southern California waters, including the Santa Barbara Channel, over a 20-year period. 

Why was Reheis-Boyd's chairing of the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force a conflict of interest? 

"Because, as President of the Western States Petroleum Association she had to have known that offshore fracking was already taking place, and she steered the MLPA process around that subject, making sure the oil companies wouldn’t be bothered by such things as ‘'No Take' in a State Marine Reserve," said Joey Racano, Director of the Ocean Outfall Group, in a comment on the OB Rag. (http://obrag.org/?p=95147#.VYmCjN3DyRo

"Catherine Reheis-Boyd was President of the Western States Petroleum Association at the same time she was Chair of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on the Marine Protected Areas, and during the all-important ‘implementation’ process. That means she got to decide what would make it on to the agenda and what wouldn’t," he noted. 

"Nobody is saying Marine Protected Areas aren’t a good thing or that they aren’t causing a return to health and abundance. What we are saying is that we can’t wait for some future process to get the oil out. Indeed, the entire MLPA was called a ‘once in a generation opportunity’ to do so," he emphasized. 

The oil industry is the largest and most powerful corporate lobby in California. Reheis-Boyd's Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) set a new record for lobbying expenses in 2014 when it spent $8.9 million spent on lobbying, nearly double what it spent in the previous year. WSPA spent $4.67 million in 2013. (http://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2015/02/06/big-oil-group-spent-89-million-last-year-lobbing-jerry-brown-and-california-officials

To read WHY the oil spill occurred - Big Oil's capture of the regulatory apparatus - read my groundbreaking investigative news piece at: http://www.calitics.com/diary/15750/lobbyist-for-oil-pipeline-company-oversaw-creation-of-fouled-marine-protected-areas 

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