The Louisiana oil spill has become an environmental catastrophe, and a national scandal. It is now project to be the worst oil spill in US history, eclipsing even the notorious Exxon Valdez spill of 1989 and the Santa Barbara oil spill of 1969. The environmental and economic consequences are devastating to the entire Gulf Coast, still recovering nearly 5 years after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the area.
It is also bringing a halt to calls for increased offshore oil drilling. President Obama has announced a halt to offshore drilling plans until a thorough review can be conducted.
Here in California, advocates of the deal with PXP in support of the Tranquillon Ridge project find themselves on the wrong side of current events. Day after day brings news that suggests support any new offshore drilling plan here in California isn’t a good idea. Susan Jordan, running to replace her husband Pedro Nava in the Assembly from the 35th District, put out a press release today with some damning information about PXP and BP’s lobbying against federal regulations:
At the same time Texas-based oil company Plains Exploration & Production (PXP) was trying to woo Santa Barbara environmentalists into supporting its plans to drill the first new offshore oil lease in California state waters in more than 40 years, the company was trying to convince the federal government not to implement stronger protections for drilling rigs that might have prevented the devastating oil spill that occurred 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana.
For their part, supporters of the PXP/Tranquillon Ridge deal argued the Louisiana spill bolstered their view that the deal would actually help protect the California coastline:
Santa Barbara opponents of offshore oil, who have rallied behind a proposal that would allow new wells now in exchange for a commitment to end drilling in 14 years, said the Louisiana spill underscores the importance of establishing a definite end date for drilling off their coast.
“The spill has reinforced the importance of our plan that will shut down four platforms,” said Linda Krop, chief counsel for the Santa Barbara-based Environmental Defense Center. “If they’re allowed to continue indefinitely, the risk of spills would continue indefinitely.”
I’ve always understood that logic, and it’s important to note that groups like EDC shouldn’t be lumped into the same “drill baby drill” crowd as people like Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh. But at the same time, their support for the Tranquillon Ridge plan will be used by proponents of a wider opening of the California coast to drilling.
If others come to state and local governments with promises of money to help stressed budgets and a pledge to shut down operations after a specific period of time, they will be able to say “even Santa Barbara environmentalists supported this kind of drilling.” And while EDC and others might not support future projects, they’ll have set a precedent that will quickly spread beyond their control.
Given the similarities between the 1969 Santa Barbara spill and the 2010 Louisiana spill, it seems to me that the Tranquillon Ridge project is too much of a risk to California’s environment and economy to support. The right move is to hold a firm line against ANY new drilling off of California’s coast. The Louisiana spill is a reminder that the 41-year moratorium must remain in place, and drilling not be expanded in any form.