Importantly, as with all projects, accidents do and will happen. It was only this past November that a branch of the Keystone XL pipeline sprung a leak up in North Dakota releasing over 200,000 gallons of oil. That leak came only six months after the same pipeline leaked 16,000 gallons of oil in South Dakota, taking over two months to clean up. Accidents simply happen. And when we’re talking about projects of such a grand scale, particularly dealing with highly toxic material, accidents have major consequences. In the Dakotas it was just a simple pipeline pumping oil over land. Here, we’re talking about drilling, and we’re talking about drilling in the ocean. Oil spills in the ocean are far more difficult to contain and have extensive consequences to the environment and to coastal economies.
As recently as 2015 California saw a major oil spill off its coast—the Refugio oil spill—that was a result of a pipeline leak from an offshore oil platform. The spill contaminated the beaches of Santa Barbara with nearly 150,000 gallons of oil, damaging marine life and costing the county some $75 million. California’s largest oil spill in 1969 was also a result of offshore drilling. Similarly, the greatest oil spill in U.S. history—the BP oil spill—was a result of offshore drilling. It is shortsighted to think that what has happened in the past will not happen again. We know it will. It is simply a matter of when and where.
Further, we do not need new oil and gas rigs to meet our energy needs. We don’t need oil and gas rigs to grow our economy. In the case of California, the state is the 6th largest economy in the world, ahead of most entire nations, and we sit on some of the best solar energy potential in the country, not to mention wind and geothermal. Fortunately, California has already led the country in deploying renewable energy technology—but we must not regress by simultaneously allowing an arcane and highly polluting energy resource to be exploited in our coastal waters. Fossil fuels equate to short-term gain, long-term pain. They are not our energy future. Even natural gas, while cleaner, is still a fossil fuel that pollutes our air and warms our climate.
At absolute best, more offshore oil and gas drilling will expedite us towards the precipice of climate change, contributing massive amounts of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. That’s not something we can stand for. In California, we know heat, droughts, and wild fires far too well to dismiss this threat. At worst, these projects will exacerbate climate change while also creating another BP or Exxon Valdez oil spill—destroying our fragile marine ecosystems, gorgeous beaches, and killing tourism.
Today at 11:59PM ET marks the last day for public comment on this issue. Make your voice heard by clicking here. In the upper right of the web page, you'll find a "Comment Now!" button where you can click to leave your comment. Also consider reaching out to your congressman/woman. Feel free to use parts of this blog in your public comment or dialogue. Please share this post, and together we can keep our oceans healthy.
Click here for video of yesterday’s successful rally for clean oceans in HB. Or click here for the original Facebook event where you can link up with fellow ocean advocates in southern California!
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Shahir Masri, Sc.D.
Environmental Health Scientist