Photo by Edward McCabe
On Wednesday an oil pipeline ruptured and spilled oil that eventually made its way to the ocean and along the Santa Barbara area coastline. Estimates so far are that approximately 105,000 gallons of oil were spilled. The oil spilled for a few hours before it was shut off. The pipeline that ruptured moved oil from an onshore oil facility to processing plants in other areas. The oil spilled into a culvert, then went under a highway and into a storm drain that spilled into the ocean.
Scenic coastline was effected and two state beach parks were closed over the Memorial Day weekend. The oil spill was not as huge as the previous oil spill in 1969 that had a disastrous effect on wildlife and tourism. Crews have been busy containing the oil spill at sea while others are cleaning up the beaches. Environmentalists are trying to save the lives of wildlife such as sea birds. There are two species of sea birds in the area that are considered to be endangered species. There is a snowy plover reserve in the area that is off limits to people specifically to save this endangered species.
This oil spill comes at a time directly after the voters of Santa Barbara County voted against a measure on the ballot to not allow fracking in the county for either onshore or offshore oil extraction. The fact that citizens had to work so hard to collect enough signatures to put it on the ballot only to be defeated by millions of dollars of direct mail advertising from the oil companies is an example of the flaws in the democratic process of government. Voters in the North County where people are employed in onshore oil drilling operations may have been fooled by the claims of the oil companies that not allowing fracking would destroy jobs. This claim of course was not true because conventional oil extraction provides the local jobs and there would be no significant increase in oil production jobs by allowing fracking.
The oil spill in Santa Barbara in 1969 is credited by many as starting the environmental movement. Conservative Republican, Bob Lagomarsino, who was the representative from the district changed his views about environmentalism because of the 1969 oil spill. Rep. Lagomarsino who was on the powerful defense committee was primarily interested in bringing jobs to the area with military bases and defense contractors. He not only changed his views about environmentalism but he, also, decided that the area needed a better economic base than relying on federal defense contracts.
This new oil spill may not be as huge as the 1969 oil spill but it will supply more fuel in the local area to environmentalism and the need for political reform by bringing back painful memories. The heartbreaking imagery of the oil contaminated beaches and dying sea life are back and it must make people shake their heads, asking the question, “How could this happen again?”