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Saturday, 23 May 2015 08:22

Oil Kills Everything It Covers: The Santa Barbara Spill and Continued Destructive Drilling

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asantabarbaraSunset west of Santa Barbara. (Photo: Sourav Das)

On May 19th, it was announced over breaking news that an onshore oil pipeline, owned by Plains All American Pipeline, a Houston Texas company led by ex-Flint Resources (Koch Industries) ruptured at Refugio Beach, north of Santa Barbara. An estimated 105,000 gallons of crude oil gushed into the Pacific Ocean, five times worse than the initial estimated 21,000 gallons.

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I live three hours away from Refugio Beach. This quiet, isolated shoreline is a favorite beach for campers, hikers and surfers. When I was earning my undergraduate degree at UC Santa Barbara, I used to walk the trails and watch whales, shorebirds and sea otters bop in and out of the turquoise waters; tiny crabs would scuttle in between the black rocks and tide pools. Our California beaches are bristling with wildlife, including rare endangered species. The central coast is a habitat for seals, sea lions and whales, a variety of fish, which are migrating north this time of the year.

Oil kills every living thing it covers. Imagine being drenched from head to toe with thick, gooey tar: Toxic suffocation is an extremely painful way to die. That’s what happens to dolphins, whales, pelicans, otters that, unbeknownst to them, swim into the devil’s poison.

The national networks neglected to say that Plains transports oil for Exxon-Mobil. According to Miyoko Sakashita of BiologicialDiversity.org, the Houston-based company has had “175 devastating oil spills nationwide since 2006, including 11 in California,” documented by federal authorities.

Governor Brown declared this oil disaster a “state of emergency.” Plains All American was negligent on discovering this massive oil spill until it was too late. Had it not been for residents that felt nauseated from the fumes, and called to report it, who knows how long it would have continued undetected by Plains All American?

Brad Pitt’s and Angelina Jolie’s 11-plus acre, $5 million Santa Barbara beach front home is among the many beautiful ranches and homes that are threatened by the massive oil spill just over a mile away from Refugio Beach.

You would think that this Santa Barbara oil disaster would stop President Obama in his tracks and force him to reconsider his offshore drilling plans for the Arctic and the Atlantic Ocean. Don’t count on it…

Environmental groups say there is a 75 percent chance of an oil spill greater than 1,000 gallons if leases like the ones in the Chukchi Sea are developed. The approval has been met with public outcry, including by hundreds of kayakers, “Paddle in Seattle” seeking to suspend Shell’s rig from moving forward to Alaska.

Drilling off the Atlantic Ocean and the Arctic will put thousands of lives at risk. Economically speaking, since money rules the day, if you happen to be wealthy individuals who have the fortune to build multimillion dollar beach homes on the Atlantic shorelines, you can kiss those dream homes goodbye.

We’re not talking about defiling poor, black communities with toxic oil. Now the wealthiest individuals in this country will know what it’s like to lose the value of their beach mansions to oil catastrophes. Oil shareholders will also lose enormous amounts of money when the law suits start rolling in. Big insurance companies will feel the financial pain as well and will most likely go broke because they won’t be able to cover the mass destruction at the cost of billions of dollars.

In the advent of super hurricanes like Sandy, expect oil disasters to ruin their beach property forever; that’s right: permanently. People can rebuild—even after a monster Hurricane Sandy, (perhaps the president, and the governors benefiting from the Atlantic offshore drilling plan, should take a moment out of their busy golf schedules and evening cocktails to review this National Geographic video of Super Sandy), in any event, homes can be rebuilt, but once those beaches and homes are drenched in methane-crude oil—forget about it.

Did the words Super Sandy ever enter this president’s oil-soaked brain when he approved of offshore drilling in the Arctic and off the Atlantic Ocean?

Upshot: oil investors are only interested in profits. They don’t care if they kill the last living whale on Earth; nothing is sacred to them except profits, but the President of the United States has the legal and moral authority to say “No—that’s off limits,” which is exactly what President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore said to the oil execs when they wanted to drill in the Arctic and off the Atlantic Ocean shorelines from Virginia to Georgia.

As far as Obama’s environmental record is concerned, his offshore drilling decisions negatively counterbalance his climate change initiatives. He will be remembered as the Democratic president who approved of more perilous oil drilling, as global warming grows worse, than even the Bush-Cheney Administration.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this report: The Hidden Story about BP’s Gulf of Mexico’s Macondo Well

Jacqueline Marcus is the editor of ForPoetry.com and EnvironmentalPress.com.  She is a contributing guest writer for Buzzflash at Truthout.org.  She is the author of Close to the Shore by Michigan State University Press. Her E-book, Man Cannot Live on Oil, Alone: Time to end our dependency on oil before it ends us, is available at Kindle Books. She taught philosophy at Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, California.