Wednesday, September 19 , 2018, 3:21 am | Fair 62º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Stand in the Sand Puts Local Focus on Gulf Oil Catastrophe

Environmental leaders draw parallels to 1969 oil spill in Santa Barbara Channel, call for tougher safety standards

Between Solstice revelry and World Cup excitement, Santa Barbara was abuzz with weekend activity, but a group of environmentalists still managed to draw a crowd of what looked to be several hundred yellow T-shirt-clad activists at West Beach on Sunday. Dubbed Stand in the Sand, the event was meant to call attention to the ongoing oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, drawing parallels with local offshore oil production.

Harkening back to the 1969 oil spill in the Santa Barbara Channel that gave birth to the environmental movement, environmental leaders and elected officials — including Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider and Ocean Futures Society founder Jean-Michel Cousteau — called for greater conservation to ease dependence upon petroleum products.

“As long as we’re dependent upon oil, we need to have a system in place to keep things like this from happening,” Cousteau said. “What happened (in the Gulf) could have been avoided. A lot of shortcuts were taken, and if you take shortcuts that means you’re greedy and taking risks. Those risks are not acceptable.”

Comparing the Gulf spill to the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska, Cousteau opined that an international commission should be established to enforce safety standards. He also pointed out that while the grounding of the Exxon Valdez tanker spilled roughly 30 million gallons of oil, that was only a fraction of the current leak fouling the Gulf. The leak at BP’s Deepwater Horizon well, which began gushing April 20 after a fiery explosion that killed 11 platform workers and injured 17 others, has already spilled hundreds of millions of gallons and is the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history. Cousteau said that in addition to shortcuts taken by BP executives, lack of oversight by the U.S. Minerals Management Service was to blame.

“It would be in the best interest of everyone involved to comply (with an international regulatory commission) — even the businesses who make money,” said Cousteau, who offered that perhaps the United Nations could take on such a task.

Scott Bull, of Surfrider Foundation's Santa Barbara chapter, shows off a posed photo of a surfer covered in oil.
Scott Bull, of Surfrider Foundation’s Santa Barbara chapter, shows off a posed photo of a surfer covered in oil. (Ben Preston / Noozhawk photo)

“We want businesses to make money, because otherwise we wouldn’t be able to do anything, but not without these huge risks.”

Attendees at Sunday’s event were encouraged to focus on making personal choices aimed at conserving petroleum. Many arrived on bicycles or on foot.

“We need to ask ourselves, ‘Is this trip really necessary?’” noted Gaviota Coast Conservancy and Naples Coalition volunteer Joanne McGarry, who had walked from her home to the event. “We’ve got to think before we drive.”

Numerous environmental groups had tables set up at the four-hour event, including the Community Environmental Council, Get Oil Out, Save the Mermaids and Surfrider Foundation’s Santa Barbara chapter.

Click here for more information on Stand in the Sand.

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

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