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Ripples of the Santa Barbara oil spill

September 7, 2008 | 10:47 am

1969spill_2 It's been frustrating to local anti-oil activists to see such attention given to a vote by Santa Barbara County supervisors in favor of new oil drilling off the county's coastline. "It was distressing to see the media make this a big deal when the county board flips on this issue every few years," said Linda Krop, chief counsel of the Santa Barbara-based Environmental Defense Center.

To underscore her point, the Santa Barbara City Council is about to weigh in on the matter. It's not likely to make much news. Why? Well, because the city has been steadfastly opposed to new off-shore oil drilling since the 1969 platform blowout coated the city's beaches with viscous goo.

The city's resolution, scheduled for a vote on Tuesday, would reiterate that "the City of Santa Barbara continues its strong support of the state and federal moratoria on new offshore oil and gas leasing off the Santa Barbara coastline..."

The vote is likely to be unanimous, or nearly so.

What gets lost in the offshore oil debate, now playing out in this year's presidential campaign, is that oil companies own 37 existing leases in the Santa Barbara Channel that have never been developed. To be sure, drilling on some of these undersea tracts have been thwarted by state and federal regulatory skirmishes. Other reasons have been wild fluctuation in oil prices over the years and that many of the major oil companies have resold these leases because they were considered more trouble than they were worth -- at least compared to drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. Much of the oil off Santa Barbara coast is thick, sour crude, more suitable to making asphalt than high-grade fuels to power jets or even high-performance SUVs.

-- Kenneth R. Weiss

Photo: 1969 oil spill off Santa Barbara. Credit: Associated Press

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