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Ripples of the Santa Barbara oil spill

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

Comments () | Archives (12)

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Thanks Sheila. For convenience, here is an except from the article:

"Gee, if so many people believe it, it must be true - except it isn’t.

In May 2006, the U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS) issued a report stating that as a result of both Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the number of pipelines damaged was 457, and the number of offshore platforms destroyed was 113, with a total of 146 oil spills recorded.

A study of environmental impacts written for MMS by Det Norske Veritas and Company and published March 22, 2007 told an even more detailed story.

As a result of both storms, a total volume of 17,652 barrels (or roughly three-quarters of a million gallons) of total petroleum products, of which 13,137 barrels were crude oil and condensate, was spilled from platforms, rigs and pipelines. 4,514 barrels were refined products from platforms and rigs.

There were 542 reports related to offshore pipelines that were damaged or displaced, of which 72 resulted in spills that had a volume of one barrel or more of crude oil or condensate. These pipelines were reported to be dented, kinked, pulled up, twisted or bent, pinhole or valve leaks or other damages.

The 72 pipeline spills were accountable for about 7,300 barrels of crude oil and condensate spilled into the Gulf.

The report noted that response and recovery efforts kept the environmental impacts to a minimum, with no onshore impacts from these specific spill events.

However, MMS also noted that an estimated 8 million gallons (or 191,000 barrels) of oil was spilled from nine onshore facilities in the Louisiana Delta, where large holding tanks were breached by Katrina. "

astro, darlin', you won't get the facts from FOX or Limbaugh, or even from your own local reps like Trent Lott, because they are all liars. there were HUNDREDS of oil spills from Katrina/Rita:

resulting in hundreds of thousands of gallons of petroleum products poisoning the region. in one 10-second skim of Google, i found the massive Mississippi oil spill (which caused McCain to cancel his appearance, to avoid being linked to the inevitable outcome of his policies), a deadly spill in Brazil and another in Patagonia, all within the past 6 months. i'm sure i could find dozens more if i took the time, which clearly YOU should, since you think it's so perfect now.

all citizens and species have the right to protest having our resources devoted to enriching a few mercenaries at enormous cost to the planet, taxpayers and energy consumers. the ONLY solution is to stop the insanity, start a much more aggressive LOCAL POINT OF USE renewables program so we can charge car batteries at home and work, and save us from the Palins who don't care who or what the destroy to get their checks.

I use mass transit every day because its readily available and I'm a cheap bastard who doesn't want to pay thousands a year for a car that I would have to pay to park. I realize Santa Barbarans are in a different boat. However, you guys should all try it where you can.

Spending all day in a sound-insulated cocoon listening to a radio station echo-chamber their own opinions (NPR or Rush Limbaugh or whoever) leaves people cut off and isolated. Mass transit also allows you time to read. Cutting one car out of your family budget probably saves 5/10,000 a year?

Offshore drilling technology has advanced tremendously since '69. With redundant saftey systems and considerably updated platform design, the odds of a spill are infintesimally small.

Hurricane Katrina directly pounded scores of platforms, and while New Orleans drowned, not one rig lost oil.

Only those of you who utilize public transportation right now have credibility in insisting we refuse to drill for our own resources. If you drive a car, you're part of the problem (as am I), and are hypocritical for suggesting that the fuel you burn to get you to work and the gym should come from someone else's back yard.

Interesting comments.

I lived through the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill. Helped clean it up, in fact. What a stinking mess and environmental disaster. A college student, at the time, I marveled at the response of Santa Barbara's citizen's, and especially GOO (Get Oil Out) leaders some of whom are still here in Santa Barbara. These folks were true leaders in the environmental movement; before Earth Day became commercialized.

When will the citizens of the broader USA get it?! The Great Oil Fiesta of the last fifty years is over.

It has been a common tactic that Big Oil seeks to lock up leases to hold them off the market to manipulate market prices -- and not to produce them.

Their recent ferver for new leasing is belied by their stubborn objection to the revocation of many idle leases where no exploration or production has taken place for many years. With oil at an all time high, why would Big Oil keep so many leases idle? Idle leases should be revoked and let for lease to other companies. But Big Oil has blocked every effort to do so. Why?

One strategic oil spill today could wipe out a struggling species like the Sea Otter. Why has Big Oil resisted using double hulled tankers to transport oil along the California coast to minimize the risk of a catastrophic spill?

Our California marine resources upon which our state economy rests is too valuable a resources to risk; our oceanic wildlife and marine ecosystem too fragile to endanger.. It is time we adopt a. sustainable energy policy and embrace Al Gore's call for truly clean and renewable energy within 10 years .

American ingenuity can do it. We can do better.

Thank you for this follow up article. Prior Times' articles gave a misimpression the SB County Board of Supervisor's recent action represented a significant shift of sentiment in the place where the heart of the environmental movement beats.

While most Santa Barbarans understand the historical divergence of opinion on oil drilling within the diverse county, the national and regional media do not. Until this article the Times overstated the meaning and context of the Board vote which historically flip/flops 3-2 on this issue depending on who holds the key swing seat. The coastal city of Santa Barbara, which was forced to suffer the impacts of the 1969 Oil Spill, has never wavered in its opposition to offshore oil drilling.

Why can't I buy an electric car that easily? I don't want to buy gasoline. It is a hazardous flammable poisonous explosive, and causes children to have asthma. Screw the oil companies. We don't need anymore plastic in the ocean either, which gasoline subsidizes, and would disappear from the marketplace the day that the oil companies fold.

THANK YOU for showing this photo. i am so sick of people acting like people are trying to "protect their views" when THIS IS THE REALITY OF OFFSHORE DRILLING.

too bad andrew can't read, since the article clearly states that the oil in SB won't ever be auto fuel. i realize now it's probably "elitist" to even be able to read, but how does a guy like this get a vote that counts as much as mine??

local, point of use solar, microwind, conservation! no Big Oil, Big Energy or Big Rnewables!!! stop killing the environment for SUVs and McMansions!

Right on Bonnie! Our oceans are in very serious trouble. It is amazing how many people are ignorant to that fact. You are not a LIb or a leftist. You are a realist!


You're wrong. If gas prices go up, you drive less and use mass transit. After all, if you really believe in your moral values, you're prepared to make some sacrifices.

Yeah Bonnie. As long as you have auto fuel you're happy. Let that situation change and see how fast your attitude changes. What an asinine attitude. We're spoiled as a society. Reasonable development and economic progress is always needed. Libs are nuts. Simply can't believe people are dumb enough to fall for their continuing and nauseating 3rd grade bs.

I teach Marine Biology to undergraduates. I believe there is a good reason that offshore drilling has been curtailed until now. Not only will it not do much for the current gas price, but may do damage to the rare and fragile continental shelf. I hate to see the environment become a political football. We should be investing in really clean alternatives such as solar. Take a stand!!


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