Friday, December 15, 2017     Volume: 18, Issue: 41
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Santa Maria Sun / Canary

The following article was posted on December 6th, 2017, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 18, Issue 40 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 18, Issue 40

A hot mess

It’s been more difficult getting my usual bird’s-eye view of Santa Barbara County what with all this wind. But I can still see plenty that’s going on, especially the massive smoke cloud to the south.

I lamented the wildfires we had earlier this year—the Alamo and Whittier fires—but based on what we’re seeing out of Ventura County right now, we’re lucky those two didn’t come during the windy season. Pushed by Santa Ana winds, the Thomas Fire was heading fast toward the city of Ventura last I checked, and at least one person had died in the blaze, which was then considered “out of control.”

It also left tens of thousands in our county without power. We’re all connected people, and this year’s fire season has shown that again and again. When we suffered through the Alamo and Whittier, firefighters from across California and other states came to help battle the blaze. When fires raged across Napa and Sonoma counties, killing many and destroying homes, locals came together to help by donating food, clothing, and even furniture, whatever they could spare (“Driven to help,” Oct. 26).

It’s good to know that we have first responders ready to fight for our lives and that communities are willing to give support—we’re going to need both for Ventura. But we should also be thankful for others who help, though not just in times of dire need.

Take Santa Barbara County’s Planning and Development Department inspectors whose job it is to visit the county’s thousands of oil wells and petroleum facilities each year. The department just gave a report to the county Board of Supervisors, detailing, among other things, the number of violations they issued.

I gotta admit, I was impressed that among the more than 2,000 wells in the county, there were only 161 issued violations between 2015 and 2017. That’s not that bad, to my ears. But then when you learn that 145 of those were given to Greka Energy, you have to wonder what the heck is going on with that company.

North County residents know Greka’s name well. They’ve had more spills than my uncle Larry on his fourth holiday eggnog, including into waterways and a neighboring winery.

Greka actually went to court earlier this year to try and indefinitely halt a case against the company from the feds and the state for a bunch of those spills, citing an executive order from President Donald Trump that undid an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule issued by former President Barack Obama.

In one case, Santa Barbara County had issued a stop-work order and revoked a permit for Greka’s Bell facility after they spilled oil and produced water three days in a row in 2008, on Dec. 26, 27, and 28. (Those holiday weekends will get yah!)

Now, if Greka is responsible for most county oil citations in the last few years—for things like failing to maintain equipment to not keeping records—why should the lawsuit be dropped? If county citations and fines aren’t enough for them to clean up their act, maybe Greka should be hit where it hurts.

Unlike when and where a wildfire starts, this is something that can be controlled. Oh wait, I forgot! Greka did call on the county’s Fire Department in October of this year, when a welding spark ignited an injection station pump in Orcutt.

Again, thanks to county fire for snuffing that one out before it got worse!

The Canary can see through all the smoke. Send your thoughts to canary@santamariasun.com.




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