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!
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!