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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on January 31st, 2018, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 18, Issue 48 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 18, Issue 48

Santa Barbara County supervisors pass resolution opposing federal offshore oil leases

By SPENCER COLE

In a move that echoed past decisions, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution formally opposing new offshore oil leases in federal waters along the California coast on Jan. 30 at the board's regular meeting. The vote split along party lines, with liberal Supervisors Joan Hartmann, Janet Wolf, and Das Williams voting in favor of the resolution while conservatives Peter Adam and Steve Lavagnino dissented.

The resolution states California "deserves protection equal" to Florida and serves as a response to Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke's proposal to expand offshore oil drilling nationwide, an announcement he made in January. If the plans were to go forward, they would potentially open California waters to oil infrastructure development and exploration for the first time since 1984. Zinke reportedly told Florida Gov. Rick Scott that the Trump administration would exempt the state shortly after making the plans public, citing the peninsula's unique coastline that served as a vital economic corridor due to tourism.

Hartmann said the decision to protect Florida was due to either the administration's personal objections or were politically motivated, and that both possibilities "were indefensible, arbitrary, capricious."

Wolf said the resolution's passage was timely because the Trump administration was also simultaneously pushing to lift restrictions and environmental protections implemented nationally following the catastrophic Deep Water Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

"It's just appalling for an industry that seemed to have welcomed some of those protections to ensure and give the public some reassurance that they were trying to protect the environment," Wolf said. "Now it appears those protections will be taken away."

Williams told those at the meeting that the proposal seemed "ridiculous and dangerous," and argued the oil found in the Santa Barbara Channel and offshore nearby was of poor quality, largely viscous, and therefore difficult to extract.

"If we really are going to depart from fossil fuel addiction, the last thing we need to do is open a lot more of it in our backyard," he said.

Speaking against the resolution, Adam called oil and gas production critical to the economy and the county's cash flow. He criticized his fellow supervisors and the speakers voicing concern on behalf of environmental groups, and labeled their thinking shortsighted.

"Let's go back into this idea that we can survive without oil," he added. "You know, you may able to put a lot of people in [Toyota] Priuses and they may get along OK and everything, but you're losing sight of how you get all the stuff that you have at your stores and where your food comes from."

Adam noted the difficulties farmers face in light of increasing regulations and opposition to fossil fuels and lack of fuel-efficient vehicles to replace diesel engines used widely in agriculture.

Lavagnino pointed out that even though he supported renewable energy, it only accounted for about 15 percent of total energy used nationwide.

"This country likes to say we want to divorce ourselves from oil and petroleum products but we don't," he said, adding the United States consumes 20 million barrels of oil per day. "Fact of the matter is we are still using this product, and it's either going to be [developed] here under the most stringent environmental regulations you can find or we are going to support Third World countries or those that abuse women [like Saudi Arabia]. It just seems like we are using the product and turning a blind eye from where we get it from."

Andy Caldwell, executive director of the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business (COLAB), expressed dismay at the resolution, calling it "deja vu all over again."

Alena Simon, Santa Barbara County organizer for Food and Water Watch, said the argument about new leases was as much an economic issue as it was an environmental one.

"New offshore oil leases would increase the likelihood of another devastating oil spill, which can shut down fisheries, shutter beachside businesses, and deter campers and tourists from visiting our beautiful coastline."




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