By Dan Bacher / Indy Bay
As the Santa Barbara Oil Spill fouls the controversial “marine protected areas” created under the privately-funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative, Californians Against Fracking announced they will march with local residents at the site of the tragic spill to call on Governor Jerry Brown to stop fracking and “move California off dirty fossil fuels.”
Following a disastrous 105,000-gallon oil spill that devastated fish and wildlife populations and closed down beaches, the group “Stand in the Sand” will gather in De La Guerra Plaza in Santa Barbara on Sunday, May 31 at 1 p.m. to show solidarity with local residents and organizations working on the front lines in response to the spill, according to a news release from Californians Against Fracking.
“Members of Californians Against Fracking, including Santa Barbara County Organizer for Food & Water Watch Rebecca Claassen, will be there to call on Gov. Jerry Brown to issue an emergency moratorium on unconventional oil extraction methods including on- and off-shore fracking, and move the state toward 100 percent renewable energy,” according to the group. “Carrying a 90-foot long inflatable pipeline, the group will call attention to the governor and state regulators’ failure to protect California communities from the hazards of extreme oil and gas operations.”
Four “marine protected areas” created under the MLPA Initiative are now imperiled by the oil spill that started at Refugio State Beach on Tuesday, May 20, when an oil pipeline owned by the Plains All-American Pipeline Corporation ruptured, devastating over 9 miles of the Santa Barbara County Coast.
Ironically, the “marine protected areas” threatened by the spill – the Goleta Slough, Campus Point, Naples and Kashtayit State Marine Conservation Areas – were created under the oversight of a Big Oil lobbyist. Yes, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association who is leading the campaign to frack California and eviscerate environmental laws, CHAIRED the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force to create so-called “marine protected areas” that don’t protect the ocean from oil spills, offshore oil drilling and fracking!
More than 1,000 residents from all over California are expect to join the “Stand in the Sand” rally outside Santa Barbara City Hall, and then march to the waterfront where they will create a human barrier to symbolically stem the tide of expanding extreme oil extraction operations in the state. Community members wearing yellow T-shirts will link arms at the waterfront, where there will also be an inflatable pipeline and electric cars. For more information, go here.
Stand in the Sand was created in response to the Gulf Oil Spill in 2010. The group is raising money to aid clean-up efforts in Santa Barbara.
For more information about Californians Against Fracking, follow @CAagainstFrack on Twitter. For more information about Food & Water Watch, visit foodandwaterwatch.org.
You can view an eyewitness video on the oil spill by Madeline Stano of the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment here.
Mainstream and most alternative media refuse to discuss reason for oil spill – Big Oil’s capture of regulatory process
Unfortunately, the LA Times, the Santa Barbara Independent and other mainstream and alternative media are failing to cover the real story behind the Refugio State Beach disaster – the fact that oil spills like this one are the inevitable result of the capture of the state and federal agencies by the oil and chemical industry.
We can’t effectively address the Santa Barbara disaster without discussing the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative, a controversial “public-private partnership” between the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Resources Legacy Fund Foundation (RLFF) that was supposed to create a network of “marine protected areas” along the California coast.
During the MLPA Initiative process from 2004 to 2012, state officials and corporate “environmental” NGO representatives made sure that Big Oil and other corporate polluters weren’t impacted by the creation of alleged “marine protected areas” along the California coast.
In an article published widely in June 2010, I warned that the “marine protected areas” created under the MLPA Initiative don’t protect the ocean from oil spills and pollution.
“These marine protected areas, as currently designed, don’t protect against oil spills,” said Sara Randall, then the program director of the Institute for Fishery Resources and Commercial Fishermen of America. “What’s the point of developing marine protected areas if they don’t protect the resources?”
In violation of the provisions of the landmark Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) of 1999, the “marine protected areas” failed to protect the ocean from oil spills, oil drilling, pollution, military testing, corporate aquaculture, military testing and all human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering.
Of course, MLPA Initiative advocates neglected to address why Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association in Sacramento, was allowed to not only chair the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast, but to sit on the task forces for the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast, as well as on a NOAA federal marine protected areas panel.
In yet another big conflict of interest, the WSPA President’s husband, James Boyd, served on the California Energy Commission from 2002 to 2012. From 2007 to 2012, he served as the Commission’s Vice Chair, the second most powerful position on the Commission!
Unfortunately, as we can see from the current oil spill disaster off the coast of Santa Barbara, the state and federal regulatory agencies and the MLPA Initiative’s so-called “marine protected areas” weren’t able to prevent a big oil spill like the one now taking place from occurring – and the fishermen, Tribal members and grassroots environmentalists who criticized oil industry lobbyist oversight of the MLPA Initiative process were absolutely right about their fears that the highly-touted “Yosemites of the Sea” wouldn’t protect the ocean.
This disaster could have been averted if the pipeline had an automatic shut-off valve, but it didn’t, according to a Santa Barbara County official. Now you will see the federal and state regulatory agencies pointing fingers at each other as to who is to “blame” for the spill when it is the entire regulatory apparatus, now captured by Big Oil, that is really responsible for the spill.
To make matters worse, these same agencies, ranging from the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), the federal agency that permits offshore drilling, to the California Coastal Commission, failed to stop oil companies from fracking the ocean off California over 200 times over the past 20 years.
Plains All-American has had 175 incidents since 2006
The company that owns the pipeline involved in the major oil spill in Santa Barbara has had 175 incidents (mostly oil spills) nationwide since 2006, including 11 in California, according to a Center for Biological Diversity analysis of federal documents!
But ultimately, the people responsible for the Santa Barbara Oil Spill of 2015 are the state and federal officials who have allowed the oil industry to hijack what passes for “marine protection” in California – and who have let the oil industry get away with fracking the heck out of Southern California marine waters while engaging in very lax enforcement of environmental laws, including effective inspections of oil pipelines.
If the regulators had not been controlled by the regulated, this pipeline spill might have been prevented.
To read more about this scandal, go to my latest article and read my investigative piece in the East Bay Express about oil industry money and power in California.
Take Action: Avaaz, a “global web movement to bring people-powered politics to decision making everywhere,” is now calling California Attorney General Kamala Harris and local District Attorney Joyce Dudley to file civil and criminal charges against Plains All American and its CEOs in a petition campaign. This is a campaign that I strongly support.
Plains All American CEO Greg Armstrong raked in over $5 million in compensation last year and is guaranteed $29 – $87 million in golden parachute cash while oil from a rupture in his company’s shoddy pipeline is fouling the beaches and ocean waters for 9 miles off the Santa Barbara County coastline.
Do the MPAs protect marine life? I love all the San Diego marine parks created under the MPAs and the recent sceintifc studies show they are working to preserve marine life. Go visit one and look under the water. The fish are bigger, more plentiful, and all other marine animals seem to be doing better as well and this just the first few years. You may not like some of the people charged with creating them, very understandable, but they are stakeholders and shuttimg them out of the process would have been a bigger foul. Also, understand that the MPA process is a dynamic one that you should take the time to understand rather than poo poo on it. This accident sucks but should not be used as an excuse to undermine marine protections when they are just getting started. I hate to say it but reading your article reminds me of a fox news report, one sided and leaving out inconvenient facts. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water rather embrace the MPAs and get involved with the process, if we collectively do this we will become a bigger and more important stakeholder in the MPAs than the oil companies.
I’ve got to agree with Joe that the MPA’s are doing incredible work when it comes to the task they were designed for, stabilizing then increasing wildlife populations. Everywhere they exist these populations rebound. The safe breeding zones the MPA’s represent then spread their fecundity outwards, there is no fence after all. I question why some ‘stakeholders’ are allowed to some tables from a moral point of view, however, from a pragmatic one I understand that picking fights keeps these things from happening at all, or delays them for years, so unless you know ahead of time you can win such a battle quickly, often times it is better to move forward. The bottom line is that simply limiting fishing has by itself made a tremendous difference. We don’t need to decry that positive step forward, we need to improve on and expand the concept. I for one recognize this tragedy as a political opportunity to do just that, to improve and expand the standards beyond fishing. We’ve got an painful object lesson in our pocket right now that corporate money and regulatory capture will have a much harder time than usual containing. The iron, as they say, is hot…. That said, the author is dead on in criticizing regulatory capture. This term needs to be on people’s tongues like ‘sustainability’ has become, education has to happen, and a ton of it, before most people will even understand this issue, how incredibly top to bottom widespread it is, its implications, through knowledge will come the overstanding to strategically confront the issue, though I don’t think it will be easy, one of the beautiful aspects from the perspective of our oppressors, of regulatory capture, is its essence of being hidden in a thousand small and large, mostly unnoticed panels ans commissions; regulatory capture capitalizes on diffusion and being “out of sight thus out of mind.: Illuminating to the public the importance of this veiled level of governance will be a real undertaking not to be approached lightly. My final comment is that the author implies dangers from fracking to the ocean. I’m no expert, but in my reading on the topic I’ve never come across the notion before, and shy of a mega quake, is a bit tough to imagine. I suppose my understanding of aquifer / ocean interaction is insufficient? Confused. Either a retraction of the implied threat is in order, or an explication of what the threat from fracking to the ocean technically is so that we the readers can understand the issue….
Dan Bacher says
Scott – I agree with you that marine protected areas play a key role in providing refugia for fish. It is notable that the Marine Life Protection Act of 1999 was not opposed by the major fishing groups because recreational anglers and commercial fishermen realize that MPAs, in conjunction with fishing regulations, can boost fish populations and the biological diversity of the ecosystem.
The problem is that the MLPA Initiative, the privatized process that created the specific marine protected areas, didn’t implement the Marine Life Protection Act of 1999 in a just and wholistic manner as it was supposed to. The oil industry and polluters did their best to exempt their harmful activities from inclusion in the MPA designations. In other words, fishermen and Tribal gatherers (the Yurok Tribe, the largest Indian Tribe in California, still does not accept the MLPA Initiative’s marine protected areas) were targeted while ocean industrialists got off the hook.
There’s also a big difference between an oil lobbyist sitting on an MPA panel, which is bad enough itself, and CHAIRING the MLPA Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast. That was wrong – and a textbook example of the bigger problem we face here – the capture of the regulatory apparatus by Big Oil and other corporate interests.
As I’ve pointed out in article after article, Big Oil is the largest and most powerful corporate lobby in Sacramento – and I fear that it will defeat Senate Bill 788, the legislation to close an oil industry loophole for offshore oil drilling.
I’m very glad that you appreciate my criticism of regulatory capture – thanks for the thoughtful comments!
Regarding ocean fracking, I am posting a press release from the Center for Biological Diversity that summarizes a report that they wrote in September 2014. I think it should answer your questions about the dangers of fracking the oceans. For the full report, you can go to: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/offshore_fracking/pdfs/Troubled_Waters.pdf
New Report: Offshore Fracking Threatens California’s Ocean, Air, Seismic Safety
10 Widely Used Fracking Chemicals Endanger Marine Life, Analysis Finds
SAN FRANCISCO— As the California Coastal Commission meets in Smith River this week, scientists with the Center for Biological Diversity today released a new report outlining the serious dangers posed by toxic chemicals, air pollution and increased earthquake risk linked to offshore fracking near Santa Barbara and Los Angeles.
The “Troubled Waters” report also examines unique environmental concerns raised by the California Council on Science and Technology, which recently unveiled data showing that fracking in California occurs at shallower depths and with higher concentrations of chemicals than in other areas.
“Oil companies fracking offshore wells are using incredibly toxic chemicals that can hurt sea otters and other marine wildlife,” said Shaye Wolf, a Center biologist. “Offshore fracking also pollutes our air, and underground disposal of fracking wastewater poses an earthquake threat to coastal communities. The risks of fracking get clearer every day, and the Coastal Commission needs to stop the oil industry from using this toxic technique in our fragile ocean ecosystems.”
Here are the report’s key findings:
Toxic discharges: Oil platforms off California’s coast are permitted to dump 9 billion gallons of wastewater, including fracking chemicals, into the ocean each year.
Wildlife threats: At least 10 fracking chemicals routinely used offshore in California could kill or harm a broad variety of marine species, including sea otters and fish. Fracking in the state employs high concentrations of chemicals, including substances acutely toxic to mammals, according to new data from the California Council on Science and Technology.
Hazardous air pollution: Fracking increases air pollution and can expose coastal communities to air pollutants that cause cancer and other illnesses. Most offshore frack jobs have occurred within three miles of the coast, near communities like Long Beach, which already has some of the nation’s most polluted air.
Earthquake risk: Injecting fracking wastewater underground can induce earthquakes, and all of Southern California’s offshore injection wells are within three miles of an active fault.
The Coastal Commission has struggled to determine the full extent of offshore fracking, which involves blasting water and industrial chemicals into the seafloor at pressures high enough to crack rocks and release oil and gas. Oil companies have fracked more than 200 offshore wells near Huntington Beach, Long Beach and Seal Beach, as well as in the Santa Barbara Channel.
A recent poll conducted by Public Policy Polling and commissioned by the Center found that 55 percent of Californians back a ban on offshore fracking, and 65 percent want oil companies prevented from dumping fracking chemicals into the ocean.
Dan Bacher says
“You may not like some of the people charged with creating them, very understandable, but they are stakeholders and shuttimg them out of the process would have been a bigger foul.”
Sorry, but the Western States Petroleum Association President wasn’t just a “stakeholder.” She CHAIRED the MLPA Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast. Do you get it? She was the person who oversaw the creation of the agenda and CHAIRED the meetings. That in and of itself makes the process suspect. True ocean advocates opposed a Big Oil lobbyist from chairing the South Coast Task Force.
“Also, understand that the MPA process is a dynamic one that you should take the time to understand rather than poo poo on it. This accident sucks but should not be used as an excuse to undermine marine protections when they are just getting started.”
Taking time to “understand it?” I have spent hundreds and hundreds of hours researching and writing about the MLPA Initiative. I have written article after article, with extensive documentation about the process, in over two dozen separate publications, ranging from local to national. I’ve spent many hours covering MLPA Initiative meetings, Fish and Game Commission meetings, legislative hearings, protests and direct actions about the process.
It isn’t myself or MLPA Initiative critics who are “making an excuse to undermine marine protections.” It’s MLPA Initiative advocates who agreed to the creation of questionable “marine protected areas” that don’t protect the ocean from oil spills, oil drilling, pollution and all human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering that are the ones who undermine the letter and spirit of the actual law.
I think you are confusing the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) of 1999, the law, with the privatized process, the MLPA Initiative (MLPAI), that actually undermined the implementation of the law, as I have documented in article, after article, after article.
Do you understand what I’m saying? I support the complete and just implementation of the Marine Life Protection Act of 1999 – not the selective enforcement that is occurring now.
“I hate to say it but reading your article reminds me of a fox news report, one sided and leaving out inconvenient facts.”
So let me get this right – standing up for the full and just enforcement of the Marine Life Protection Act, the law, reminds you of a “FOX News report?” LOL – I don’t think any FOX News anchor would stand up for authentic marine protection and for the restoration of our salmon, steelhead, Delta smelt, groundfish and other fish species as I have for over 30 years!
“Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water rather embrace the MPAs and get involved with the process, if we collectively do this we will become a bigger and more important stakeholder in the MPAs than the oil companies.”
Actually, the MLPA Initiative process is over – it essentially ended in 2012! We are now in the implementation phase by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Now we have to address the flaws in the creation of the MPA, flaws that I have pointed out in many articles, through administrative, legislative and legal means to ensure full compliance with the law.
I hope you will join myself and others in supporting Senator Mike McGuire’s Senate Bill 788 (I have written about this in other articles) that removes an oil industry loophole that weakens both the California Sanctuary Act and the Marine Life Protection Act. This law will help get the “oil” out of California marine waters, including ina and near the network of “marine protected areas” that were completed along the California coast in December 2012.
My apologies for questioning your credentials on the MPAs and ocean conservation in general and Faux News comment but you were seriously hating on the MPAs. Your article came across as though the oil spill happened because the MPAs are a failure. You also mock the marine protected areas as though they are not protecting marine life which they most certainly are. You sounded like the people calling for the end of Obamacare because of websites glitches. I thought you maybe stumping for the commercial fisherman like the Reader. My point is that despite the ugly process and big oils involvement, we still have a large portion of coastline protected from commercial exploit, more would be great, but it is a good start. There needs to be a living ecosystem to protect from oil spills, fracking juice that is being dumped offshore, warm water blobs, and the numerous other threats. Over fishing is the biggest and most immediate threat and the MPAs have proven to increase fish populations both inside and out of MPAs, a win win for recreation and many commercial stakeholders. I get that an oil spill can wipe it all out in an instant but oil is not why we no longer have abalone, sea otters, black sea bass, good sized lobster, and fish significantly over the legal take size.
The really cool part about the MPA process is that every 5 years all the scientific data and recreation use tallies can, along with stakeholder input, change how an individual MPA is regulated. Furthermore, more MPAs are possible and the MPA outreach programs are only going to increase the overall recreation value and appreciation for our Sierra Nevada of the Sea.
All that said… We absolutely need protection from oil pollution, and that loop hole needs to be closed and hopefully it will be soon. The hotel on the beach in Oxnard has oil removing wet wipes at every gate from the beach and a view of many oil rigs against the back drop of the Channel Islands. They have been there for decades, even before Anacapa was federally protected, and those are the ones to be worried about. I could be wrong but don’t think there has been a new well drilled offshore in decades, just the same OLD ones now getting into fracking. Like it or not, oil is a major stakeholder in the MPAs and certainly have the most vested interest, the oil rigs were here long before the MPAs and invested a ton of cash into extracting oil. It sucks but they must be factored in or risk bankrupting the state with legal fees. The fact that they got the Chair position is laughable but don’t let one bad apple spoil the bunch, the process was bigger than one person. MPAs are awesome and getting better, bottomline. Furthermore, every single person I have met that is involved professionally with the MPAs is thinking about the environment. The implementation is in great hands.
I like what Scott said about this being an opportunity to improve and expand upon what we have, just like the 1969 SB oil spill resulted in new coastal protections
Dan Bacher says
Thanks for your apologies. Let’s make things clear; I don’t oppose the marine protected areas.” I support them. The problem is that I support FULL protection in MPAs, not just from the impacts of fishing, but from oil spills, oil drilling, fracking, corporate aquaculture, pollution and other human impacts.
That’s why major fishing groups did not oppose the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) of 1999.
I support environmental justice – I don’t support the targeting of one group of people and letting others off the hook. I don’t know if you have read the MLPA, the law, but the MLPA Initiative, the process, did not adhere to the letter or spirit of the law, in my opinion.
You say, “The fact that they got the Chair position is laughable but don’t let one bad apple spoil the bunch, the process was bigger than one person.”
Sorry, but who leads a process – and who they represent – does matter. There is no way that you can possibly justify an oil lobbyist overseeing a marine protected area process. The Western States Petroleum Association President and MLPAI Chair for the South Coast did have enormous power; the power to call meetings and to set the agenda. To have somebody like that overseeing the process made the process highly suspect – and those of us who opposed the the fox guarding the hen house found the silence of many NGOs on this issue appalling.
The head of the Ocean Protection Coalition at the time openly asked for the oil lobbyist to resign from her seat on the North Coast task force at a meeting in Fort Brag in 2010, but she refused to do so.
In addition, one big question that should be asked is: did the South Coast MLPAI Chair know about the intense fracking of Southern California marine waters by the oil industry as she was chairing the panel?
It is also important to point out that the “overfishing” issue that you talk about was already largely addressed in very strict groundfish regulations that create a defacto “marine protected area” along the entire continental shelf of California. Before any of the new reserves went into effect, these regulations were already having a big impact. More than anything else, this has brought back lingcod, rockfish and other fish populations back to very robust levels, particularly in Northern and Central California.
I don’t know if you’ve been fishing for lingcod over the past two years, but the lingcod populations are absolutely booming. And the gillnet ban that myself and others fought hard for along the coast back in 1990 also has a very beneficial impact upon fish species. I have spent 30 years of my life fighting to bring our marine and anadromous fish populations back to abundance.
Marine protected areas provide a valuable tool for restoring ecosystems, but there is much more to marine protection than MPAs. They must be carefully balanced with fishing regulations and other environmental laws. And yes, all of the good that marine protected areas do for fish and the ecosystem can be wiped out by a major oil spill like the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska or the BP Horizon disaster.
We need now to make sure that both the marine protected areas and the areas outside of them are comprehensively protected. To accomplish this, we’re going to have to do it though the administrative, legislative and legal arenas. We’re also going to organize much more strident protests and direct actions to make that happen. I strongly support SB 788, as well as the Stand In the Sand and similar protests.
And more than anything else, we need to stand up to the capture of regulatory processes, ranging from the MLPA Initiative, to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, to federal environmental processes, by entrenched corporate interests like Big Oil, agribusiness, developers and the timber industry.
I hope that the current oil spill serves as a catalyst for people to work together for comprehensive marine protection along the California coast.