Tag Archives: Santa Barbara County CA

Big oil slick off Santa Barbara County coast sparks new concerns

Repost from the Los Angeles Times
[Editor:  See also ABC News, Coast Guard Says California Oil Slick Will Vanish on Its Own.  – RS]

Big oil slick off Santa Barbara County coast sparks new concerns

By Javier Panzar , Joseph Serna, Matt Hamilton, July 29, 2015 10:39pm

That greasy luster returned once again to the waters off Santa Barbara County.

An oil slick that stretched more than 3 miles was spotted Wednesday by some kayakers, about two months after a ruptured pipeline spilled more than 21,000 gallons of crude into the ocean off this picturesque coastline.

The sheen — no thicker than a coat of paint — did not prompt the closure of any beaches, and the U.S. Coast Guard said the oily substance would dissipate on its own.

As Coast Guard investigators awaited lab results that may pinpoint the oil’s source, images of a shiny patch of sea and splotches of tar along these pristine shores sent a quiver of anxiety through a community that’s still recovering from the May 19 spill.

Goleta Beach oil spill“I just hoped it wasn’t another oil spill,” said Janine Dorn, a substitute teacher who brought her black poodle, Jack, to survey Goleta Beach before sunset. The oil spill in May had her fuming, she said. “Then I see this and it’s incredible. This can’t be happening again.”

Shortly before 11 a.m., the kayakers reported seeing the sheen about 1,000 feet off Goleta Beach, according to the county fire department. A black and brown gooey substance had coated the kayaks and the kayakers’ legs, according to photos from the fire department.

Initially described as measuring 60 feet wide, the sheen by Wednesday evening had stretched 3.5 miles long and half a mile wide, U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Ryan Schmid said. As tides moved, the oil split into sections and covered only about one-third of the total area, he said.

The patch was seen floating near an oil platform owned by Venoco Inc., but the company denied that its platform was involved. That platform, known as Holly, was shut down in May, a company official said. Its pipeline was flushed of any oil and refilled with seawater.

The Coast Guard, meanwhile, said the sheen could have been an ordinary, natural seepage. At Coal Oil Point, a seep field in the Santa Barbara Channel, thousands of gallons of oil flow into the ocean each day, something residents have grown accustomed to.

“The earth burps all the time,” said Robert Hernandez, an electrician who fishes nearly every day off the Goleta pier. “You smell it, you get a little on you. No big deal.”

Hernandez, 60, said he has been fishing along the Central Coast since he was 15. Sheens such as those spotted Wednesday are part of life in a region where the petroleum-rich sea bed regularly emits oil and natural gas, he said, which made him question why it was newsworthy. “It cracks me up,” he said. “At first I thought there was a shark attack or something.”

Yet environmental activist Rebecca Claassen, an organizer with Food and Water Watch, said it’s too early to minimize the sheen as a natural occurrence, saying the oil platforms that dot the county’s coastline pose a daily risk. “We can see a spill any day as long as there is drilling off shore,” she said.

Federal officials said Wednesday’s sheen also could be a remnant of this spring’s spill, when the corroded pipe operated by Plains All American Pipeline leaked an estimated 101,000 gallons of crude along the Gaviota coast and forced a weeks-long closure of Refugio State Beach.

The director of the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife, Charlton Bonham, said Wednesday that the cleanup of the Refugio spill is ongoing, with about 14,000 gallons of oily water removed from the ocean.

Cleanup crews have responded to reports of tar balls as far away as Orange County, and one tar ball recovered in Manhattan Beach had the same oil “DNA” as the oil spilled at Refugio, he said.

Appearing in Sacramento before the state Ocean Protection Council, Bonham said the natural seepage in the area is challenging how his agency assesses the effectiveness of recovery efforts. “What is clean?” he told the panel. “How clean is clean?”

As federal and state investigators await the results of laboratory tests from Wednesday’s incident, Santa Barbara County’s director of public health, Dr. Takashi Wada, said there is no immediate risk to swimmers, and the county’s beaches and fishing piers remain open.

After swimming in the water off Goleta Beach with her friend, Anya Schmitz, 16, opined that the water was crystal clear — perfect for a summer dip.

“Conditions are great,” she said. “Seems like a lot of hype to me.”

Panzar reported from Goleta; Serna and Hamilton from Los Angeles. Times staff writer Phil Willon in Sacramento contributed to this report.
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California Environmental Groups Sue to Stop Fracking

Repost from Public News Service

California Environmental Groups Sue to Stop Fracking

By Suzanne Potter, June 11, 2015

LOS ANGELES – California environmental groups filed suit Wednesday to block a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) plan to allow fracking and oil drilling on more than one million acres of public land.

According to Patrick Sullivan with the Center for Biological Diversity, the BLM environmental assessment was inadequate.

“We think the federal government needs to go back to the drawing board and take a really hard look at fracking pollution threats to water, air and public health,” he says.

The environmental lawfirm Earthjustice filed the suit on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity and Los Padres ForestWatch. Oil companies named in the suit maintain their operations are safe and comply with all regulations.

Sullivan says fracking and oil drilling put the environment and nearby residents at risk.

“The EPA has found instances in which fracking has contaminated drinking water across the country,” he says. “Here in California we know oil companies have dumped waste fluid into protected underground aquifers.”

The federal lands in question stretch across the San Joaquin Valley, southern Sierra Nevada and along the Central Coast in Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.

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Exxon seeks to use trucks to haul oil after pipeline break

Repost from KSBW News, Santa Barbara CA

Exxon seeks to use trucks to haul oil after pipeline break

Associated Press, Jun 05, 2015 1:06 PM PDT
Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, KSBW

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. —An oil company wants to use tanker trucks to haul oil through Santa Barbara County while a pipeline that spilled crude into the Pacific Ocean last month is out of commission.

Exxon Mobil officials have told county officials they want to use a fleet of 5,000-gallon tankers for the job, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.

Kevin Drude, head of the county’s energy division, said the company proposes to have trucks use Highway 101 daily, around the clock at a rate of eight trucks an hour to get the oil moving to refineries.

Exxon Mobil normally moves crude from three offshore platforms through more than 10 miles of pipeline owned by Plains All American Pipeline.

The movement has been stopped since the pipe ruptured on May 19 and released up to 101,000 gallons west of Santa Barbara. Thousands of gallons flowed down a culvert under Highway 101 and into the ocean at Refugio State Beach.

The trucking proposal is seen as risky by environmentalists.

“We don’t want another disaster,” said Linda Krop, chief counsel for the Santa Barbara-based Environmental Defense Center.

Glenn Russell, county planning and development director, said his staff will review the proposal and make a decision by Monday. He said he expects a similar request from another oil company, Freeport-McMoRan, which has also been affected by the pipeline shutdown.

Cleanup and investigations into corrosion that resulted in the failure of the pipe have been underway since the spill and there’s no timetable for putting the pipeline back in service.

Exxon Mobil would use the trucks until the pipeline is operational again, said company spokesman Richard Keil.

“We need to move our product by truck to serve the energy needs of Californians and the demands of the refineries we supply,” he said.

Exxon reduced oil production from 30,000 to 8,500 barrels a day and is storing the crude in tanks at Las Flores Canyon near the coast highway.

Russell said the company now has two weeks’ worth of storage space left.

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