Stop Oil Seeps (SOS) California , a local nonprofit organization committed to reducing the negative impacts of natural oil and gas seepage on the Central Coast, today announced its formal response to the Draft Proposed Program (DPP) for the National Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Program 2019 – 2024, as executive ordered by the Trump Administration as a replacement to the current five-year program.
In reviewing the DPP , SOS California co-founder and Santa Barbara resident Lad Handelman noted that Section 1.3 states that the analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) will include the preparation of a Programmatic Environmental Impact Study (EIS) to evaluate the potential socioeconomic and environmental impacts to the included regions.
The Santa Barbara Channel is within the Southern California Planning Area, one of four in the Pacific Region Planning Area.
“We are encouraging the Department of the Interior (DOI), Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to also include an analysis of the natural oil and gas seeps in the Southern California Planning Area discussions and address the potential for offshore oil and gas exploration and production to reduce the environmental impact of natural seeps, ” stated Handelman.
SOS California acknowledges the region’s political opposition to offshore drilling but opines that the offshore reserves are the assets of California’s citizens, not its state politicians.
SOS requests that the NEPA document address this issue in terms of “social justice” and points out that the vast majority of Californians, principally the lower and middle class, have no voice in environmental policies, resulting in their paying substantially higher energy prices than the rest of the U.S.
SOS California cites a National Research Council (NRC) study that shows the leading source of petroleum pollution in U.S. waters is natural oil seepage — 62 percent compared to less than 1 percent from oil industry activity.
Along the California coast, there are more than 2,000 active submarine seeps releasing an average of 10,000 gallons of oil every single day, or the equivalent of the 1969 Santa Barbara oil blowout, every 12 months.
“Peer-reviewed published reports document that existing offshore oil and gas production has reduced seepage pollution over the last 20 years,” explained Handelman. “This highlights the potential to significantly reduce seep oil pollution through expanded offshore oil and and gas production.”
Handelman notes that the basis for a Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors resolution opposing new offshore leases is the 1969 oil spill and the onshore Refugio oil pipeline rupture. Yet, neither incident was a mishap of offshore drilling.
In fact, notes SOS California, the 21,000 gallons of Refugio pipeline oil that leaked into the ocean pales in comparison to the 10,000 gallons of oil naturally seeping from the ocean floor every day. Additionally, the pipeline’s subsequent closure has led to more offshore platform shutdowns, further increasing the volume of natural seep activity.
SOS California added there has been no ocean pollution from California drilling related activities in the past 50 years thanks to significant advances in oil production technology.
“Awarding new leases would allow for an assessment of reserves using current 4D technology, which could indicate a significantly larger reservoir potential, ” explained Handelman.
Current estimates, based on a $60 per barrel oil price, indicate that expanding offshore energy production could generate $600 billion in new tax revenues and funds for education and social services while creating thousands of high paying jobs, particularly for Santa Barbara County.
“Natural oil and gas seeps pollute our ocean and beaches, negatively impact marine and coastal wildlife, sicken swimmers and surfers, and significantly contributes to local air pollution. It is our (SOS) contention that including the Santa Barbara Channel in leasing program would substantially benefit our community environmentally and economically,” Handelman added.
To learn more, visit SOS California at www.soscalifornia.org.
— Renee Cooper for Stop Oil Seeps California.