Update, May 26th: The SB County Board of Supervisors held its first public hearing on the Refugio Oil Spill today in Santa Maria, and the great majority of comments from the public favored greater oversight and regulation of the oil and gas industry in county and more and better legislation in terms of environmental protections.
As one speaker noted, "An ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure." To this point, the Refugio Oil Spill Joint Command released an update today, indicating that some 3,300 cubic yards of oiled material have been removed from the coast. While the spilled oil itself obviously has a negative impact on the environment, it is impossible to remove 3,300 cubic yards of oil-fouled soil, sand, and vegetation without negatively impacting our fragile coastal ecosystem. This is a clear reminder that the effects of the Refugio Oil Spill are wide-ranging, not yet wholly understood, and will be felt for years to come.
On a very positive note, Supervisors Janet Wolf, Doreen Farr, and Salud Carbajal all made clear their understanding that this oil spill constitutes an environmental disaster, and each expressed their intent to hold the oil industry fully accountable. Supervisors Peter Adam and Steve Lavagnino, however, repeatedly attempted to diminish the significance of the spill by comparing it to the oil seepage that occurs naturally. At one point, Lavagnino even stated that, because natural seepage amounts to 4000 gallons each week, "that is one of these spills every week"; given that the Refugio Oil Spill involved at least 21,000 gallons (and more likely 105,00-plus gallons) of oil, this comparison is clearly fallacious.
It is vitally important that we as citizens communicate our positions to our elected officials- this would an excellent time to take a few minutes to call or email your County Supervisor, and to let them know that we want to preserve a clean, oil-free Gaviota Coast, and that we want the oil industry in general- and Plains All American Pipeline, in particular- held fully accountable for this mess. Contact information for each of the SB County Supervisors may be found here.
An interesting development came to light today in a piece published by the SB Independent today: SB County District Attorney Joyce Dudley visited the spill area on Monday, May 25th, and declared it a "potential crime scene". As reported by the Independent, Dudley will be meeting with federal prosecutors this week to discuss the matter further.
As a reminder, private citizen volunteers who wish to help with the cleanup are now being accepted, but must undergo training first. Information and the training sign up sheet may be found here.
Please check back tomorrow for additional updates and information.
The Gaviota Coast Conservancy is a volunteer-based, non-profit organization, and we truly appreciate your support. Please consider making a donation of time or resources to the environmental organization of your choice: our beaches and oceans will thank you!
Update: Important County Board of Supervisors meeting, 9AM, Tuesday, May 26th: The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors will be conducting the first public hearing about the Refugio Oil Spill at 9AM on Tuesday, May 26th. We encourage everyone who is concerned about the future of the Gaviota Coast- and the environment in general- to attend the hearing, comment and then rally outside afterward. The supervisors and the press need to know that we as a community are outraged by this spill, and that we will continue to work for a safe energy landscape in Santa Barbara County, and beyond.
Locations for the hearing: Remote testimony may be made at 9AM at 105 East Anapamu Street, 4th Floor, Santa Barbara. The live hearing will be held at 9AM at the Betteravia Government Center, 511 East Lakeside Parkway, Santa Maria, CA 93455.Please RSVP by emailing Rebecca Claassen at firstname.lastname@example.org
In other news, the Refugio Response Joint Information Center released a statement yesterday (May 24th) that chemical dispersants will NOT be used in the cleanup effort. This is huge and very positive news, as chemical dispersant can by harmful and even toxic to fish and wildlife.
Unfortunately, the Refugio Response Joint Information Center also released a statement indicating that flight restrictions have been put in place for all aircraft (including private drones) around the spill area: the restricted airspace encompasses a five-mile radius around Refugio State Beach, with a ceiling of 1000 feet.
Finally, the Refugio Response Joint Information Center announced that Refugio and El Capitan State Beaches will be closed to the public until June 4, 2015.
We will continue to update you on the status of the spill, and we appreciate your continued support with our efforts in working toward a clean, spill-free Gaviota Coast!
Update, 10:00pm, May 24th: Spill Volunteer Opportunities- Based on an information release from the Refugio Response Joint Information Center website, and in apparent response to the successful rally held at West Beach today and additional pressure, members of the public will finally be allowed to volunteer to help clean up our beaches, provided they register with California Spill Watch and attend a 4-hour "Hazard Safety Communication Training".
Registration information may be completed at https://calspillwatch.dfg.ca.gov/Spill-Archive/Refugio-Incident/Volunteer Three training sessions will be held: Monday, May 25th, from 1p-5p; and Thursday, May 28th, from 8a-12p and again from 1p-5p.
Unfortunately, no information is currently available regarding the location of the training sessions, and the registration process requires completing a volunteer form and emailing it to the Refugio Response Joint Information Center. Please consider completing the form and attending one of the training sessions, and pitching in as you are able.
Why did the Refugio Response Joint Information Center wait until 8p on May 24th to release this, when many local residents have been expressing a desire to volunteer since the spill occurred on Tuesday, May 19th?
Below is the most current map of the spill as released by the Refugio Response Joint Information Center. Note that as of Friday, May 22nd, oil was visible on the surface of the ocean from Hollister Ranch on the north almost to Carpinteria on the south, a distance of nearly 50 miles.
Refugio Incident Map, 5-24-15
Today's update includes current Joint Incident Command statistics on the #RefugioBeachOilSpill
Photos by US Coast Guard Petty Officer David Mosley
(Santa Barbara, CA, 5/24/15) Today Noozhawk reported that the Santa Barbara County Firefighters join the #RefugioBeachOilSpill Cleanup. This begs the question, eloquently expressed by Marc Chytilo, legal counsel for the Gaviota Coast Conservancy, “If we have a professional, trained firefighting force that we expect is ready to respond to any emergency, an active oil industry with onshore spills occurring with some regularity, and the knowledge that there will be spills getting into the ocean, why would the County firefighters be delayed for 24 crucial hours to get additional training? Why weren’t we ready?!”