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In Reversal of 2008 Decision, Supervisors Oppose New Offshore Oil Development

New board majority calls for reinstatement of federal moratorium

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday passed a resolution opposing new offshore oil and gas leasing and the new board majority called for the reinstatement of a federal moratorium on such operations.

New 3rd District Supervisor Doreen Farr joined South Coast Supervisors Salud Carbajal and Janet Wolf in voting for the resolution, with North County Supervisors Joe Centeno and Joni Gray dissenting.

Tuesday’s vote essentially reverses the board’s Aug. 26 decision to send Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger a letter requesting a state policy change that would allow for more offshore oil and gas development. That earlier 3-2 vote — with Centeno, Gray and then-3rd District Supervisor Brooks Firestone voting for the measure and Carbajal and Wolf opposing it — came at the height of last summer’s run-up in gasoline prices.

As the county sent its letter to Sacramento, the cities of Goleta and Santa Barbara both passed resolutions opposing new offshore drilling.

“I was not on the board when this matter was discussed before about sending a letter in support (of expanding oil and gas drilling) to the governor,” Farr said. “But I was in the audience and I did speak as a member of the public, and I did oppose that letter.”

Tuesday’s resolution comes just a week before an Interior Department hearing on the agency’s Draft Proposed Outer-Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2010-2015.

“With (President George W. Bush’s) 2008 lifting of the withdrawal on offshore oil and gas exploration, areas of the OCS are now available for leasing that were not included in the 2007-2012 Five-Year Program,” says the draft proposal. Congress, meanwhile, had not renewed the moratorium on offshore oil and gas leasing that had been in place since 1981.

Tuesday’s hearing was not without fervent comment from both sides of the issue.

“It is only because of offshore oil and gas extraction off our coast that our beaches are actually far cleaner now because of the reductions in the natural seepage,” said Bruce Allen, co-founder of SOS California, a local group advocating for slant-drill technology that would, they say, reduce the natural seepage that occurs in the area.

Kathy Staples, executive director of the Santa Barbara Energy Coalition, commented that the cash-strapped county needed the revenue it could get in royalties from leases.

“It is immensely important and it may be the way to save this county,” she said.

Meanwhile, Charlie Eckberg, director of Get Oil Out, urged the supervisors to pass the resolution.

“Stopping offshore oil development now and forever is an important statement that should come from Santa Barbara,” he said.

“New leasing is not the answer for our energy needs and our energy future,” said Linda Krop, chief counsel of the Environmental Defense Center. “Rather it will create tremendous impact and risk on our coastal communities and industries.”

Centeno, meanwhile, hinted that fuel and oil production and consumption might not be the only things to be affected by a ban on oil drilling and exploration.

“Every time this issue comes up the thing that I hear is gasoline and diesel fuel, but nothing is mentioned about all the other commodities that come from this resource,” he said, citing plastic and asphalt. “I’d like to see a list of every product that comes from oil.”

Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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