Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

May 30, 2015

Hundreds will rally as oil spill fouls Santa Barbara 'marine protected areas'

Hundreds will rally as oil spill fouls Santa Barbara 'marine protected areas'

by Dan Bacher
Censored News

As the Santa Barbara Oil Spill fouls the controversial "marine protected areas" created under the privately-funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative, Californians Against Fracking announced they will march with local residents at the site of the tragic spill to call on Governor Jerry Brown to stop fracking and "move California off dirty fossil fuels."

Following a disastrous 105,000-gallon oil spill that devastated fish and wildlife populations and closed down beaches, the group "Stand in the Sand" will gather in De La Guerra Plaza in Santa Barbara on Sunday, May 31 at 1 p.m. to show solidarity with local residents and organizations working on the front lines in response to the spill, according to a news release from Californians Against Fracking.

"Members of Californians Against Fracking, including Santa Barbara County Organizer for Food & Water Watch Rebecca Claassen, will be there to call on Gov. Jerry Brown to issue an emergency moratorium on unconventional oil extraction methods including on- and off-shore fracking, and move the state toward 100 percent renewable energy," according to the group. "Carrying a 90-foot long inflatable pipeline, the group will call attention to the governor and state regulators’ failure to protect California communities from the hazards of extreme oil and gas operations."

Four "marine protected areas" created under the MLPA Initiative are now imperiled by the oil spill that started at Refugio State Beach on Tuesday, May 20, when an oil pipeline owned by the Plains All-American Pipeline Corporation ruptured, devastating over 9 miles of the Santa Barbara County Coast.

Ironically, the "marine protected areas" threatened by the spill - the Goleta Slough, Campus Point, Naples and Kashtayit State Marine Conservation Areas - were created under the oversight of a Big Oil lobbyist. Yes, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association who is leading the campaign to frack California and eviscerate environmental laws, CHAIRED the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force to create so-called "marine protected areas" that don't protect the ocean from oil spills, offshore oil drilling and fracking!

More than 1,000 residents from all over California are expect to join the "Stand in the Sand" rally outside Santa Barbara City Hall, and then march to the waterfront where they will create a human barrier to symbolically stem the tide of expanding extreme oil extraction operations in the state. Community members wearing yellow T-shirts will link arms at the waterfront, where there will also be an inflatable pipeline and electric cars. For more information, go to:

Stand in the Sand was created in response to the Gulf Oil Spill in 2010. The group is raising money to aid clean-up efforts in Santa Barbara.

For more information about Californians Against Fracking, follow @CAagainstFrack on Twitter. For more information about Food & Water Watch, visit

You can view an eyewitness video on the oil spill by Madeline Stano of the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment at:

Mainstream and most alternative media refuse to discuss reason for oil spill - Big Oil's capture of regulatory process

Unfortunately, the LA Times, the Santa Barbara Independent and other mainstream and alternative media are failing to cover the real story behind the Refugio State Beach disaster - the fact that oil spills like this one are the inevitable result of the capture of the state and federal agencies by the oil and chemical industry.

We can't effectively address the Santa Barbara disaster without discussing the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative, a controversial "public-private partnership" between the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation (RLFF) that was supposed to create a network of "marine protected areas" along the California coast.

During the MLPA Initiative process from 2004 to 2012, state officials and corporate "environmental" NGO representatives made sure that Big Oil and other corporate polluters weren't impacted by the creation of alleged "marine protected areas" along the California coast.

In an article published widely in June 2010, I warned that the "marine protected areas" created under the MLPA Initiative don't protect the ocean from oil spills and pollution. (

"These marine protected areas, as currently designed, don't protect against oil spills," said Sara Randall, then the program director of the Institute for Fishery Resources and Commercial Fishermen of America. "What's the point of developing marine protected areas if they don't protect the resources?"

In violation of the provisions of the landmark Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) of 1999, the "marine protected areas" failed to protect the ocean from oil spills, oil drilling, pollution, military testing, corporate aquaculture, military testing and all human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering.

Of course, MLPA Initiative advocates neglected to address why Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association in Sacramento, was allowed to not only chair the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast, but to sit on the task forces for the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast, as well as on a NOAA federal marine protected areas panel. (

In yet another big conflict of interest, the WSPA President's husband, James Boyd, served on the California Energy Commission from 2002 to 2012. From 2007 to 2012, he served as the Commission's Vice Chair, the second most powerful position on the Commission! (

Unfortunately, as we can see from the current oil spill disaster off the coast of Santa Barbara, the state and federal regulatory agencies and the MLPA Initiative's so-called "marine protected areas" weren't able to prevent a big oil spill like the one now taking place from occurring - and the fishermen, Tribal members and grassroots environmentalists who criticized oil industry lobbyist oversight of the MLPA Initiative process were absolutely right about their fears that the highly-touted "Yosemites of the Sea" wouldn't protect the ocean.

This disaster could have been averted if the pipeline had an automatic shut-off valve, but it didn't, according to a Santa Barbara County official. Now you will see the federal and state regulatory agencies pointing fingers at each other as to who is to "blame" for the spill when it is the entire regulatory apparatus, now captured by Big Oil, that is really responsible for the spill.

To make matters worse, these same agencies, ranging from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), the federal agency that permits offshore drilling, to the California Coastal Commission, failed to stop oil companies from fracking the ocean off California over 200 times over the past 20 years.

Plains All-American has had 175 incidents since 2006

The company that owns the pipeline involved in the major oil spill in Santa Barbara has had 175 incidents (mostly oil spills) nationwide since 2006, including 11 in California, according to a Center for Biological Diversity analysis of federal documents! (

But ultimately, the people responsible for the Santa Barbara Oil Spill of 2015 are the state and federal officials who have allowed the oil industry to hijack what passes for "marine protection" in California - and who have let the oil industry get away with fracking the heck out of Southern California marine waters while engaging in very lax enforcement of environmental laws, including effective inspections of oil pipelines.

If the regulators had not been controlled by the regulated, this pipeline spill might have been prevented.

To read more about this scandal, go to my latest article: and read my investigative piece in the East Bay Express about oil industry money and power in California at:

Take Action: Avaaz, a "global web movement to bring people-powered politics to decision making everywhere," is now calling California Attorney General Kamala Harris and local District Attorney Joyce Dudly to file civil and criminal charges against Plains All American and its CEOs in a petition campaign. This is a campaign that I strongly support:

Plains All American CEO Greg Armstrong raked in over $5 million in compensation last year and is guaranteed $29 - $87 million in golden parachute cash while oil from a rupture in his company's shoddy pipeline is fouling the beaches and ocean waters for 9 miles off the Santa Barbara County coastline. 

Groups urge Governor Brown to stop irrigating crops with oil field wastewater

by Dan Bacher 

Oil industry representatives, in response to criticism over their use of water for fracking and steam injection oil drilling operations during the drought, have claimed that oil field wastewater can be used beneficially by farmers to irrigate crop in California.

In a recent blog post, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) and former Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create so-called "marine protected areas" in Southern California, touted the use of oil field wastewater for irrigating crops in Kern County in the southern San Joaquin Valley. (

"Bringing crude oil to the surface from deep underground so it can be refined into gasoline, diesel and jet fuel is a process that also produces water – lots of water," gushed Reheis-Boyd.

"For every barrel of oil produced in California, many more barrels of water are also brought to the surface," she said. "According to the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, the average barrel of oil in California results in the production of 15 barrels of water."

She acknowledged that much of this water is "unsuitable for use above ground" but claimed, "Fortunately, there are still uses for this water."

"Most of it is injected into oil fields as steam or water to help produce more energy for Californians.  Some of it is treated and provided to farmers who use it to irrigate their crops," she said.

Reheis-Boyd claimed Kern County producers currently provide more than 31,000 acre feet of water annually to irrigate 45,000 acres of productive farmland. "That’s more than 10 billion gallons of water for farmers who are facing severe cuts in the water they receive from other sources, such as state and federal water projects," she said.  

However, earlier this month, the Los Angeles Times revealed that testing by Water Defense had found toxic industrial chemicals present in the recycled oil field wastewater used to irrigate crops in California’s Central Valley, effectively challenging the oil industry claims that oil industry wastewater could be safely used for irrigating food crops. (

The Times quoted Blake Sanden, an agriculture extension agent and irrigation water expert with UC Davis, who said "everyone smells the petrochemicals in the irrigation water" in the Cawelo district. "When I talk to growers, and they smell the oil field crap in that water, they assume the soil is taking care of this.

"Microorganisms in soils can consume and process some impurities, Sanden said, but it's not clear whether oil field waste is making its way into the roots or leaves of irrigated plants, and then into the food chain," the Times reported.

Two national advocacy organizations, Food & Water Watch and Water Defense, are now calling on California Governor Jerry Brown to protect Americans who consume California produce by ending the practice of using toxic oil field wastewater for irrigation.   

Scott Smith, Chief Scientist of Water Defense, collected the samples from treated wastewater sold by the oil and gas industry to the Cawelo Water District in Kern County, according to a joint statement from the two groups.

An alarming video released on May 26 shows Smith, who has tested water across the country, encountering tar balls and oil slicks, conditions he compared to those he witnessed during the Gulf oil spill in 2010. (

 “I always viewed California as a leader in protecting the environment,” said Smith. “I was absolutely shocked when I found myself surrounded by food crops with the smell of oil coming off the irrigation water. It was worse than what I smelled during the BP Gulf oil spill.”
But the trouble doesn’t end with the smell.  “When the test results came back we found dangerous and toxic chemicals in the irrigation canal system,” said Smith. “The levels of these toxic chemicals exceeded what I have tested in official oil spill disasters.” 

Water Defense reported that its tests found industrial solvents, including acetone and methylene chloride, as well as oil.

“California grows the lion’s share of the fruits and vegetables we eat in the United States,” said Wenonah Hauter, Food & Water Watch Executive Director. “It is inexcusable that the oil and gas industry is allowed to use American families’ dinner plates as a disposal site for toxic oil field wastewater. Governor Jerry Brown must take immediate action to protect our food by ending the use of this industrial waste for irrigation.”

To learn more about Water Defense’s testing methods, read the interview with Scott Smith and view the video at their blog:

For more information, go to: and

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