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Monday, February 18 , 2019, 7:14 am | Fair 44º


Santa Barbara Council Votes for Resolution Favoring Oil Moratorium

The 5-1 vote followed more than an hour of impassioned testimony on both sides of the issue.

After listening to more than an hour of impassioned testimony from members of the public on both sides of the issue, the Santa Barbara City Council on Tuesday voted 5-1 in support of a symbolic resolution that favors keeping in place the state and federal moratorium on new leases for oil drilling off the coast of Santa Barbara.

Presented to the council by Mayor Marty Blum and council members Das Williams and Helene Schneider, the resolution was meant to counterbalance another symbolic statement made by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, which last month sent the opposite message in a 3-2 vote to send Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger a letter requesting that he support lifting the ban, saying it would help lower gas prices and reduce America’s dependency on foreign oil, as well as generate revenue for the county.

Councilman Dale Francisco cast the lone no vote, and Councilman Roger Horton — who said he favors the resolution — was absent.

Among the people who spoke from the pro-drilling perspective was Bruce Allen of the group S.O.S. (Stop Oil Seeps) California. Allen argued that lifting the ban and allowing more drilling would improve the environment by reducing the amount of oil that for centuries has been seeping from the ocean floor naturally.

“We are not saying you can completely eliminate it,” he said, “but we do believe you can reduce it.”

Allen also argued that lifting the ban could allow Santa Barbara County to reap up to $330 million annually in royalties.

Among those who spoke in support of maintaining the moratorium was Dave Davis of the local nonprofit Community Environmental Council. Davis said the United States needs to break its addiction to oil, and — given a newfound worldwide phenomenon in which demand is outstripping supply – is running out of time.

“By 2030, we will need 9.5 new Saudi Arabias to maintain the oil addiction we have today,” he said. “Offshore drilling is a distraction from getting to the real business of moving this country into a new technological frontier of renewable energy.”

Blum said the push for more drilling in coastal waters is disingenuous.

“To say that we are completely against any oil drilling — if you sit at almost any house in Santa Barbara and look at the ocean you see oil drilling out there,” she said. “We have an oil processing plant on the coast that’s not even being used.

“I just think that the reason has to do with the presidential election coming up, and it really truly bothers me that we are trying to make this into a very political argument.”

Williams referred to more drilling as “a bridge to nowhere.”

“The future is going to be in alternatives,” he said.

Williams added that he respects how the oil industry was once a major foundation of the South Coast’s middle class.

“I believe that energy can once again be a foundation of the middle class, but it’s not going to be in oil,” he said.

Francisco said he believed the council was acting with undue haste on a topic that is enormously complex.

“Even though it’s a symbolic action, I’d like it to be a well-considered action,” he said. “I don’t think putting it on the agenda with one week’s notice does justice to this topic.”

Noozhawk staff writer Rob Kuznia can be reached at [email protected]

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