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Educational Tours of Natural Seeps Offered Ahead of County Hearing

SOS California wants to help residents understand the effects of natural-gas and oil pollution in the Santa Barbara Channel.

For the next 35 days, SOS California, an environmental nonprofit organization, will be working to educate the community about the effects of natural gas and oil seep pollution in the Santa Barbara Channel.

On Aug. 26, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors will meet in a special hearing to address the nation’s energy crisis and its short- and long-term local effects.

The hearing will be an opportunity for the Board of Supervisors to set forth a policy position for offshore oil resources and communicate the position to state and federal officials. SOS believes that many county residents are unaware of the magnitude of pollution caused by the natural seeps and that a solution is possible — sensible expansion of offshore drilling.

“The environmental impacts we face daily due to natural oil seepage pollution is not being addressed,” SOS co-founder Bruce Allen said. “SOS looks forward to the public becoming better informed about the UCSB peer-reviewed research showing that increased offshore oil and gas production can lead to further meaningful reductions in the extensive natural offshore oil seeps. The county can not afford to ignore the potential income source from expanded offshore drilling, and should exercise a fiduciary duty to determine the potential for royalty and tax revenue sharing agreements with the state of California regarding new or renegotiated leases in the federal OCS for oil and gas production.”

Aboard the “Condor Express,” county residents on Thursday traveled up the coastline to witness firsthand seep gas bubbling up from the ocean floor and the oil sheen that blankets large areas of the Santa Barbara Channel. SOS explained that virtually all of the oil polluting the marine ecosystem and beaches is gushing up freely from cracks in the ocean floor, driven by subterranean trapped pressure and releasing both oil and gas to the surface.

At a rate of about 10,000 barrels per day, the quantity of seepage in Santa Barbara’s coastal waters since 1970 equals 31 “1969” oil spills. Scientific methods and extensive research quantify the significant reductions possible to permanently reduce these sources of pollution. SOS is planning to offer several more seeps tours to the public in the next 35 days.

“There is no better tool than this by which to educate the public about the negative impact these oil and gas seeps have on the environment,” board member Jim Nelson said. “And the toxicity in the air around the oil and gas seeps is undeniable — most of us experience an instant headache, which is proof-positive that this is a major environmental problem. In fact, the seeps are one of the major sources of air pollution in Santa Barbara County.”

Judy Rossiter represents SOS California.

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