Monday, July 23 , 2018, 9:39 am | Fair 76º


Local News

Oil-for-Land Deal Fuels Unprecedented Cooperation

It's a win-win-win — for the Earth and its inhabitants, oil suppliers and users, and the concept of sustainable agreements.

“Oil firm, foes strike major deal,” the headline read on a recent Los Angeles Times article by Kenneth R. Weiss. The PXP oil company will donate land and halt production off our coast early in exchange for tapping new wells while the price is high. The unprecedented deal was achieved by cooperating with Santa Barbara’s Environmental Defense Center and GOO (Get Oil Out), two of oil’s strongest local adversaries.

Karen Telleen-Lawton (Don Matsumoto photo)

My head spun as I read the article. I quickly checked the date — was it April 1? (It wasn’t.) Each paragraph was more incredible than the last — halting production, donating 200 acres of oceanview Gaviota land plus 3,700 acres of wine country for public parkland, and dismantling the oil refinery. The crux of the deal is that PXP — which purchased most parcels in the past 10 years from Nuevo Energy Co., Chevron and Texaco — will have its foes’ cooperation.

How did this happen? Steve Rusch, a PXP vice president, made concessions because they didn’t want to “simply neutralize offshore oil’s traditional opponents – they wanted to enlist their support,” Weiss wrote. Indeed, the environmental organizations’ enthusiasm could almost be heard.

Linda Krop, the Environmental Defense Center’s chief counsel, said, “It’s hard for me to imagine that they (county and state officials) won’t approve this.”  For the first time in its 39-year history, GOO will support drilling. GOO’s president, Abe Powell, noted the difficulty of changing from their historic stance, but they recognized the value.

Certainly, high oil prices were essential to the agreement. Light sweet crude’s price has quadrupled since the county rejected a similar drilling proposal from Nuevo in 2002. These prices brought PXP back to the table. The resulting deal demonstrates not only the importance of the arduous battle to force oil companies to deal fairly, but both sides’ paradigm shift in seeing their opponents as other than the enemy.

This is a sustainability story on two levels.  One is the progress toward land sustainability made possible by the compromise. Land sustainability is a state of dynamic equilibrium that does not need human intervention, a goal that satisfies environmental as well as economic criteria.

Tim Ahern of the Trust for Public Land says the parcels being set aside “offer habitat for 525 plant species and more than 40 animal species that are listed as threatened or endangered.” Archaeological sites dating back 9,000 years will be protected, and recreationists will benefit from the protected views, trails and beaches.

This also may be historic as a sustainable agreement, one from which several parties walk away feeling like winners.  It’s a win-win-win 40 years in the making. The Earth and its inhabitants benefit from land sustainability, while oil companies and users benefit from the oil supply.  The third beneficiary is the concept of sustainable agreements – agreements that recognize and respect the legitimate needs of the other.  I am convinced that more such agreements can be achieved in many fields.

Perhaps I’m making this a little more dramatic than it is, but it feels like a change in momentum. The 1969 oil disaster, it has long been noted, not only caused initial public outrage but was the impetus (along with Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring) for the environmental movement.

This movement dominated the 1970s and became an international movement.  Countries around the globe have since embraced environmental causes.  In many cases, Americans have been left in the (toxic) dust, still debating whether caring for the environment might hurt our economy. Not surprisingly, it turned out that environment care also protected the long-term economy. At last, the movement has returned home.

Karen Telleen-Lawton’s Serendipity column is a mélange of observations supporting sustainability. Click here to graze her writing and excerpts from Canyon Voices: The Nature of Rattlesnake Canyon.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through Stripe below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >