Monday, April 23 , 2018, 8:02 pm | Fair 55º


Gaviota Coast Oil Spill Strengthens Resolve of Community Environmental Council

The Community Environmental Council is, like much of our community, feeling both shock and outrage over Tuesday’s 21,000-gallon oil spill, caused when a Plains All American pipeline ruptured.

For our founders, this is the worst type of déjà vu, recalling the 1969 oil spill over 45 years ago that spurred CEC’s formation. Sadly, we were born out of a dirty energy crisis, and we have made it our mission to transition the Santa Barbara region away from fossil fuels.

Tuesday was both a step backward and a step forward in our fight to preserve the nature we love and protect the climate. The tragic oil spill off the Gaviota Coast — a unique bioregion that CEC fought successfully to protect in the 1970s — is a sharp reminder of all that still needs to be done to defend our precious coast. Both our founders and the next generation of activists who comprise our team have been hit hard by the images of destruction, and we are feeling this spill at a visceral level.

We are dedicated to preserving this particular coastline not just because it is the right thing to do, but because it is a place we love. Our staff knows each beach not as a name on the map, but as a place where we surf, swim, walk and bird-watch. It is where we bring our children, the place that we call home.

On a practical level, we also know that this spill could not have happened in a worse place. Oil spills are devastating no matter where they occur, but Gaviota happens to be one of only five Mediterranean ecosystems in the world. It is a pivotal bioregion between the cooler waters of the north and the warmer south, with a vibrant diversity of species not found elsewhere.

At the same time, Tuesday was a step forward. After months of advocating for stringent thresholds on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, CEC staff members emerged triumphant when the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors passed a motion to reduce 99.2 percent of GHG emissions for stationary sources. This decision will have far-reaching implications for county-wide policies, and is a huge step toward the goal of moving toward clean, renewable energy.

While we are moved to anger and sickness over this spill, we have a path forward. Multiple clean energy initiatives that have been in the works for months and years happen to have coalesced this month into opportunities for the public to engage. In May, you can take part in guiding the Bike Master Plan, comment on the county’s Energy and Climate Action Plan, and participate in a series of events on Community Choice Energy.

We encourage community members to channel their dismay over Tuesday’s gut-wrenching tragedy into positive action. As you hear the helicopters overhead racing to rescue our coastline, increase your involvement in decisions that will help move us away from fossil fuels. Together, we can ensure that this is the last oil spill in Santa Barbara; together we can create a post-oil world.

The Coast Guard/EPA on-scene coordinators have requested the public allow them space to respond to the oil spill cleanup with the proper tools, equipment and personnel. If you see an oiled animal, please do not touch or approach it. Instead, please report the animal(s) to the OWCN Response Hotline at 877.UCD.OWCN (823.6926) or the Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Center at 805.681.1080.

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