Activists Rally to Block Offshore Oil Drilling Expansion in Santa Barbara

As crews continue to clean Santa Barbara beaches from the 100,000-gallon oil spill that began when a corroded pipeline ruptured off Refugio State Beach on May 19, environmental and community groups are urging Governor Jerry Brown and state officials to stop increased offshore drilling that would depend on the same oil pipeline that burst last month.

While Governor Brown, other state officlals and the mainstream media continue to falsely portray California as a “green” state, the devastation of the oilspill 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.

Residents are holding a rally today, Wednesday, June 24, to demand that the State Lands Commission reject Venoco’s bid to expand offshore drilling inSanta Barbara, according to a news advisory from Californians Against Fracking.

More than 100 people with an inflatable pipeline, hazmat suits, a 20-foot tall mock oil derrick are expected to protest at the event at 2 pm at the Goleta Valley Community Center, Goleta Valley Community Center, 5679 Hollister Ave., Goleta, CA 93117. The State Lands Commission hearing starts at 3 pmat the same location.

Using a loophole in the state law that prohibits leasing state waters for oil and gas drilling, Venoco has asked the State Lands Commission to approve a lease swap that would allow the company to drill for more oil on 3,400 acres off the California coast. That oil would be transported through the Plains All American pipeline, the group said.

“Concerned residents of the Santa Barbara area say that any plan to pump more crude through the ruptured pipeline is flawed — as is every stage ofoffshore drilling that risks oil spills and deepens our climate crisis,” the advisory noted.

The rally is the latest in a series of resident-led actions following the May 19 rupture of the corroded Plains All American pipeline at Refugio State Beach that caused a massive oil spill that killed hundreds of birds and marine mammals and shut down beaches essential to the area’s daily life and economy, the group stated.

It is also the first of two key events this week. State Sens. Hannah-Beth Jackson and Das Williams are holding a public hearing on the oil spill June 26 inSanta Barbara.

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 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 22.

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.

“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.

To read WHY the oil spill occurred – Big Oil’s capture of the regulatory apparatus – read my groundbreaking investigative news piece here.