Santa Barbara oil spill now stretches for 9 miles

by on May 21, 2015 · 4 comments

in California, Energy, Environment, History, World News


The spill from a ruptured pipeline owned by Plains All American Pipeline expanded overnight from 4 miles long to two slicks stretching 9 miles along the coast, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. The pipeline carries crude oil from to Flores to Gaviota.

Preliminary reports indicated that the ruptured 24 inch pipeline in Goleta leaked an estimated 21,000 gallons of crude oil Tuesday. However, the pipeline company may have actually released as much as 105,000 gallons, with tens of thousands of gallons going into the ocean, according to the latest data from Plains All American. (…)

Editor: Here are photos of the devastating leak.

A local first reported the spill coming from a leak in the pipeline at Refugio State Beach around noon on Tuesday, May 19. The Coast Guard dispatched members from the Marine Safety Detachment Santa Barbara and Sector Los Angeles-Long Beach upon initial notification, according to a statement from the Coast Guard.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESCoast Guard crews stopped the leak by 3 p.m., according to Coast Guard Petty Officer Andrea Anderson. In addition to the Coast Guard, the California Office of Emergency Services, California Fish and Wildlife, county fire departments, and Exxon Mobil are currently on scene.

“Contractors are working to remove contained pockets of oil utilizing skimmers, vacuum trucks, absorbent pads, and absorbent boom,” the Coast Guard reported. “Additional cleanup actions are ongoing through the sandy beaches in the affected area. Approximately 3,000 feet of containment boom has been deployed.”

A fishing ban has been established by the Department of Fish and Wildlife until data reflects that the fish are safe to eat. The closure is initiated from one mile east to one mile west of Refugio State Beach and a distance of ½ mile off shore.

The Santa Barbara Health Department recommends that all residents avoid contact with areas where the oil spill is present. “Refugio Beach remains closed and is considered a Hazmat area and only personnel with Hazmat credentials are authorized be on the beach,” said Susan Klein-Rothschild, Public Information Officer for the Health Department.

For more information about the spill, go to:

The spill is located near the Campus Point State Marine Conservation Area, an alleged “marine protected area” created under the privately funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative, as well as near the Refugio State Marine Conservation Area.

In one of the biggest environmental scandals in recent California history, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association, served as Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force that created the Campus Point State Marine Conservation Area and other so-called “marine protected areas.” She also served on the task forces for the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast from 2004 to 2012. (…)

Reheis-Boyd leads the campaign to expand fracking and offshore oil drilling in California. The alleged “marine protected areas” created under the leadership of her and other corporate operatives on the MLPA Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force fail to protect the ocean from fracking, oil spills, oil drilling, pollution, corporate aquaculture, military testing and all human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering.

Oil industry says it “regrets” oil spill

Reheis-Boyd responded to the oil spill in a statement. She claimed, “As an industry, we are always concerned when accidents like this happen. WSPA members strive to prevent any amount of spillage and have numerous programs and procedures designed to prevent such occurrences. Once the incident is contained and thoroughly cleaned up, they will review the facts surrounding this incident and apply what they learn to prevent future accidents.” (…)

“We are grateful for the quick response on the part of the Coast Guard, Plains All American, the Office of Oil Spill Prevention and Response and other responders that appear to have quickly limited the size of the spill. And we appreciate the efforts of the local response agencies and volunteers who are working on cleanup efforts,” she said.

She noted that Plains All American, the owner of the pipeline, is a member of the Western States Petroleum Association.

Plains said it “deeply regrets this release has occurred and is making every effort to limit its environmental impact. Our focus remains on ensuring the safety of all involved. No injuries have been reported at this time.”

Spill a “stark reminder” of risks posed by expanded oil drilling

As reports of the spill and the clean up efforts were emerging, representatives of environmental groups responded to the disaster.

Becca Claassen, Santa Barbara County Organizer of Food & Water Watch, said the Santa Barbara spill provides even more reason for the state of California to ban fracking.

“The oil spill near Refugio State Beach is a stark reminder of the dangerous risks expanded oil drilling poses to Santa Barbara County’s environment and its residents’ quality of life,” said Classen. “This incident is all the more reason to ban fracking both offshore and onshore to help prevent future spills and protect Santa Barbara’s beautiful beaches and coastal environment.”

In 2013, an Associated Press and Freedom of Information Act investigation revealed that oil companies had conducted fracking offshore fracking operations in Southern California waters, including the Santa Barbara Channel, over a 20-year period. The oil companies were fracking Southern California waters at the same time that Reheis-Boyd served as the Chair of the MLPA panel for the South Coast from 2009 to 2012.

“There it is!” said Joey Racano of the Ocean Outfall Group, after he heard about the oil spill.

“This has been a site of ongoing fracking offshore for years with no public knowledge or review. Christine Reheis Boyd, Western States Petroleum Association President AND chair of the Blue Ribbon Panel on the MLPA, here are the results of your handiwork and deceit.”

Miyoko Sakashita, oceans director with the Center for Biological Diversity, released the following statement about the spill:

“Time and again we’ve seen oil foul our coasts, whether it’s Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico or Santa Barbara. Oil spills are part of the ugly cost of fossil fuel development, made even worse by aging domestic infrastructure. It doesn’t have to be this way and it shouldn’t. We need to start aggressively moving away from fuel sources that are devastating for wildlife, people and our climate. If we don’t, what we’re seeing in Santa Barbara will continue be the norm.”

Volunteers are being coordinated through

Senate Bill 788 closes offshore oil drilling loophole

The oil spill makes it even more urgent that the Legislature pass State Senator Mike McGuire’s California Coastal Protection Act of 2015 (Senate Bill 788), to address a glaring offshore oil drilling loophole in California law.

The California Coastal Sanctuary Act, passed in 1994, contains a loophole from the offshore extraction prohibition, Public Resources Code 6244, by allowing new oil leases if the “State Lands Commission determines that oil and gas deposits contained in tidelands are being drained by means of wells upon adjacent federal lands and leasing of the tidelands for oil or gas production is in the best interest of the State.”

SB 788 would eliminate this loophole by repealing PRC 6244 to ensure that the Coastal Sanctuary Act and Marine Life Protection Act are able to provide their intended protections for our coastal resources and prevent additional offshore oil extraction .

Yes, the Western States Petroleum Association President, the same oil lobbyist who oversaw the creation of fake “marine protected areas” in Southern California, and the oil companies are opposing SB 788.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Katie May 21, 2015 at 1:34 pm

Do not let politics fool you! Just because a woman who sat on the board and played a part in the creation of the marine protected areas (MPAs) is a major player in the oil industry doesn’t mean that the MPAs are fake. The state designed a network of MPAs with specific guidelines, based on science. Most people who support the MPAs see their designation as a step in the right direction, and only opens doors to create new policies… like ones that ban oil drilling. The oldest MPAs in the state are showing amazing results, and it is the hope of many that these patterns will be seen in other areas of California as time goes on. Unfortunately, with people bashing this incredible network of reserves and conservation areas, there isn’t much hope for the MPAs to ever fully integrate into our society. As Californian’s we should be very proud of our ocean environment, and any steps that we are taking to preserve it for future generations. People travel to our coast from ALL OVER THE WORLD to drive the scenic PCH. Oil drilling will continue in the Santa Barbara Channel until we have a better way of obtaining it elsewhere. The MPAs put in place are generally pretty small in size, so banning oil drilling within their boundaries wouldn’t exactly solve the problem. Maybe the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary will get some pressure to ban oil drilling within its boundaries, like the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary has done.
It saddens me to see an article such as this come out of my home town. This problem is much larger than some lady who is all caught up in politics, just as the MPAs are more than something this one woman put in place to make everyones life hell … there are meaningful intentions behind it. In the future, I suggest you do some research on California’s network of state MPAs and the research that comes out of them before framing them as “fake”. There is tangible evidence that quite the opposite is true. For more information on California’s MPAs visit or Form your own opinions and stop taking your information from sources like “”.


Joey Racano May 22, 2015 at 1:52 pm


When it comes to Marine Protected Areas, I know of what I speak. I was point person for Morro Bay East Estuary SMR, and more. I oversaw the first prosecution of an MPA violation when California Mens Colony State Prison spilled into that SMR, and we set the precedent by convincing the Central Coast Waterboard staff to reject the fine and the fine was increased, along with MPA language being inserted into the ACL (administrative civil liability) by Arnold Swarzenegger (again at my behest). So there is iron in what I say about MPA, and I am saying that the conflict of interest was obvious with the President of Western States Petroleum Association being Chair of the Blue Ribbon Panel on MPA’s. Why is it a conflict? Because, as President of Western States Petro, she had to have known that offshore fracking was already taking place, and she steered the MLPA process around that subject, making sure the oil companies wouldn’t be bothered by such things as ‘No Take’ in a State Marine Reserve. Catherine Reheis-Boyd was President of Western States Petroleum Association at the same time she was Chair of Blue Ribbon Panel on the Marine Protected Areas, and during the all-important ‘implementation’ process. That means she got to decide what would make it on to the agenda and what wouldn’t. Nobody is saying Marine Protected Areas aren’t a good thing or that they aren’t causing a return to health and abundance. What we are saying is that we can’t wait for some future process to get the oil out. Indeed, the entire MLPA was called a ‘once in a generation opportunity’ to do so. So stop defending a broken process and help us fix it by removing any and all exemptions for big oil- or else you will have what we now have in Refugio- whales migrating through oil.

And tell the Ocean Protection Council to stop allowing Chevron to be Platinum Sponsor of the World Oceans Conference.

Joey Racano, Director
Ocean Outfall Group


Joey Racano May 21, 2015 at 2:54 pm

No Refuge at Refugio

Just like car crash commercials that make us drive a little more slowly, it’s amazing how a spill of horrible black goo can shake you up when it lands on Refugio, where surfers carve waves with friendly dolphins not far behind. It was best said when a news chopper proclaimed, ‘no wildlife affected’, just as three whales rose up to breathe through oil-snotted blowholes.

Why would human beings wreck such a slice of heaven? Electric cars are already on the highways. Patriotism? Not a chance, the latest oil wars killed 4,000 servicemen while doing nothing for safety or for the price of oil. And yet here we are, in the news again, at the wrong time (Memorial Day!) and for all the wrong reasons. Has the defeat of Measure P by big oil money come back to haunt us? Some might say yes. Especially those poor screeching oil-covered seabirds who never knew what hit them. And the same can be said for the octopus, fish, Sea Lions and surfers who call this place home and liked it much better the way it looked yesterday.

Sadly, with big oil financially dominating elections, Santa Barbara Fire Department fighting a fracking ban on TV, and the President of Western States Petroleum Association as Chair of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Marine Protected Areas, we should only expect more of the same.

Joey Racano, Director
Ocean Outfall Group


Dan Bacher May 22, 2015 at 9:23 pm

Katie – Please educate yourself on what really happened in the MLPA Initiative process – not the sugar-coated disinformation circulated by state officials and representatives of big corporate “environmental” NGOs. We had a great opportunity to implement the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) of 1999 in a comprehensive, wholistic manner – but the big NGOs and state officials dropped the ball, in spite of the pleas by fishermen, Indian Tribes and grassroots environmentalists to implement the law in a just and fair manner.

It is a fact that the “marine protected areas” created under the privately funded process fail to protect the ocean from fracking, oil spills, offshore oil drilling, pollution, corporate aquaculture, military testing and all human impacts other than fishing and gathering. Please read my article about the “inconvenient truths” about the MLPA Initiative:

You claim “Just because a woman who sat on the board and played a part in the creation of the marine protected areas (MPAs) is a major player in the oil industry doesn’t mean that the MPAs are fake.”

Sorry, but she just didn’t sit on the board and play “a part” in the creation of marine protected areas – she CHAIRED the South Coast process! The fact that the President of the Western States Petroleum Association was allowed to chair a process that exempts “take” by Big Oil in “marine protected areas” shows that the process was fundamentally flawed. The person who oversees a process – and the industry that person represents – DOES matter. And as Joey points out, we need to know exactly what she knew about the rampant fracking that was taking place in Southern California waters as she was chairing the process.

Katie – will you join with Joey and I to make these questionable “marine protected areas” into real “marine protected areas?” Will you fight for a ban on fracking and for greater protection of our ocean waters – and support Senate Bill 788, legislation to plug a glaring offshore oil drilling loophole?

Thanks – Dan


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