June 1: #RefugioOilSpill @GaviotaCoastC Update
The Santa Barbara Independent, in keeping with its record of extraordinary reporting on this terrible spill, published on Friday an in-depth article on oil transportation safety, pipeline shut-off valves, and the lack of transparency from Plains All American Pipeline, the owner of the ruptured pipe. Noozhawk, another leader in spill coverage, mentioned Phil McKenna's message today. They attended the Unified Command Open House, and left with more questions. Here are their Stand in the Sand images. Here's the Unified Command Report for today. Volunteers (including from GCC, thank you!) have been assisting with endangered Snowy Plover and habitat protection (now seeing oil), and with Unified Command-led cleanup operations.
On Sunday, May 31st, Gaviota Coast Conservancy joined forces with a host of other local and national groups plus over 500 of our fellow concerned citizens for Stand In The Sand, a rally to protest the nearly two-week-old Refugio Oil Spill and to press for greater reliance on renewable forms of energy and greater accountability from the oil industry.
Santa Barbara mayor Helene Schneider addressed the energetic audience, and spoke for many in attendance when she said, “We have seen this before: the 1969 spill in the Santa Barbara Channel, the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, and in 2010, in the Gulf of Mexico. The reality is that under the status quo we will see more spills like these in the future. We are here because we want to see another alternative. We’re here because we want to get ourselves to a better place that is less reliant on oil and more reliant on new clean and renewable technologies.”
In addition, our own Phil McKenna, President of Gaviota Coast Conservancy, delivered a powerful and deeply moving speech to the supportive attendees. Touching on the history, biodiversity, and fragility of the Gaviota Coast, it's well worth reading, and we've reprinted it here in its entirety.
President Phil McKenna's Address at Stand In The Sand, May 31st, 2015
Refugio Beach was built from the mountains of Gaviota, its sand washed from Gaviota’s stone by the storm water from the North. The sand is ancient, born under the sea, lifted to the mountains, transported back to the sea.
The meeting ground of the Pacific Ocean and the North American continent is the incredibly small ribbon of sand that we call the beach. If it is 25 yards wide, it disappears from maps. At high tide it is swamped under the ocean surge.
It is an extraordinary meeting place of water and land, beyond compare on our planet. It is a place that is in constant motion, yet known for tranquility. A place so ephemeral that it changes twice a day. A place so dynamic that it transforms from summer sand to hard cobble in winter.
Refugio translates to "refuge" in English. There is irony here, and truth. Situated in the middle of the Gaviota Coast, it is a refuge from all that Southern California has become. It is a refuge for the 1400 plant and animals species inhabiting this space that are threatened by climate change. It is a refuge and sanctuary unique in the world; summer feeding ground for the Blue Whale, and host to a winter bird count almost unrivaled.
This is why we stand in the sand today. Our refuge was assaulted.
The Gaviota Coast is a unity; its mountains, streams, beach and ocean were all assaulted by our industrial world. The apologists for the oil industry, with their tepid concerns for the pollution, simply sanction the next spill with their acceptance of its inevitability. This is NOT acceptable.
The speakers today outline the technological solutions available to us to temper, reduce, and someday eliminate our reliance on non-renewable energy sources.
But you can move forward immediately, without cost, and with assurance of success. Our personal antidote, expressed in our daily lives, must be to create a respectful attitude toward our earth that is characterized by restraint: take less, give more – we need to be generous with our mother earth.
Thank you for your presence and commitment; stay connected!
As always, we at Gaviota Coast Conservancy are grateful for your support and dedication. We will continue to report on this disaster, and we encourage you to support the environmental organization of your choice with a donation of time or resources. Click here to donate to GCC's ongoing efforts to protect the Gaviota Coast. (Photos courtesy of Isaac Hernandez).
Update, May 29th: Upcoming events: On Saturday, May 30th, the Unified Command will be hosting an open house; this is an excellent opportunity to ask questions of the officials behind the cleanup effort. Marc Chytilo, counsel for The Gaviota Coast Conservancy, remarked, "The Gaviota Coast Conservancy calls on Plains All American Pipeline and the Unified Command to immediately commence cleaning up all beaches with any accumulated oil from Ventura to Hollister Ranch, and to sustain this effort through the summer and until all oil has been removed. The tardy initial response has caused these additional areas to be contaminated unnecessarily, and responders need to broaden the response area accordingly."
Also, we would like to remind an invite you to join us the Stand In The Sand Community rally on Sunday, May 31st. The rally will begin at 1p at De La Guera Plaza.
In other news, we have received an important open letter regarding potential health impacts from working to clean up our beaches in the aftermath of this terrible spill from our friends at the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN). LEAN was deeply involved in the cleanup of the Gulf Oil Spill, and also in ensuring that the oil industry was held full accountable after that unmitigated disaster: they have experience with spills, and their letter should should be required reading for anyone who is interested in volunteering to clean up the Gaviota Coast. It reads, in part:
"Anyone who tells you that these materials are safe and can be handled with minimal care is misrepresenting the facts. Even brief exposure to crude oil can irritate and damage skin, cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, confusion, difficulty breathing and other problems. Inhaling crude oil mist can cause chemical pneumonitis, a serious lung disease."
Please take a moment to read the entire letter, and please pass this on to anyone who may have been exposed to these chemicals, or who plans to contribute to the clean up effort.
On a related note, well-regarded local filmmaker Mark Manning has produced a very powerful short film which is highly recommended viewing for anyone who is concerned about the health of our beaches and coastline.
The Refugio Incident Unified Command has released a document indicating that if you or someone you know has been impacted by the spill, you may file a claim via telephone.
In a very encouraging development, and in another piece of fine reporting by the SB Independent, US Senators Boxer and Feinstein (both D-CA) and Senator Markey (D-MA) have begun an inquiry as to why the initial response to the spill was so slow.
Finally, the Unified Incident Command has updated their Refugio Oil Spill Map. For the record, and though the Unified map indicates that no oil is present in these areas, this reporter has personally seen unusually high amounts of oil and tar on the beaches to both the north and the south of Gaviota State Beach.
As always, we are truly grateful for your support, and we hope to see you on Sunday at Stand in the Sand!
Update, May 28th: Stand In The Sand, the group formed in the wake of the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill, has organized a community rally for Sunday, May 31st at 1p at De la Guerra Plaza in downtown Santa Barbara to protest the black tide of oil on our beaches. We invite you to join us and other members of our local environmental community as we rally for oil-free beaches and clean energy! Our president, Phil McKenna, is on the rally's speaker lineup. Full details on Stand In The Sand are here.
As cleanup of the Refugio Oil Spill continues and the extent of coast affected by the spill increases as the oil is transported by wind and ocean currents, additional and far-reaching impacts of this ecological disaster are coming to light.
For example, we are now finding some of the threatened Snowy Plovers which nest at Coal Oil Point (Devereux Point) with oil on their wings and feet.
And, while the unified response team has not released an updated map of the spill area since May 26th, first-hand accounts as of May 28th indicate that higher-than-normal levels of oil are being seen on beaches from Hollister Ranch on the north to Carpinteria and beyond on the south.
Jerry Roberts, former editor of the Santa Barbara News-Press (current columnist for SB Independent and editor of CalBuzz.com), focused on the spill in this edition of his program City Desk on SBTV. Roberts also offers a high-level overview of the spill and its coverage by the media in this superb and thought-provoking piece.
Finally, Nick Welsh and the staff at the SB Independent published a piece in today's issue which offers a sobering historical context of the Refugio Oil Spill.
It is increasingly apparent that the effects of this tragic oil spill will be felt for years to come. Once again, we encourage everyone to take a moment to contact their Santa Barbara County Supervisor to let them know that we desire clean, safe, oil-free beaches, and for the oil industry to be held to the highest level of accountability with regards to safety, transparency, maintenance, and clean up.
We appreciate your support, and we hope to see you at Stand In The Sand this Sunday, May 31st, at 1pm!