Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Oil Drilling Politics Brings Lots of Political Action

50 environmental organizations are opposing reopening our waters to oil drilling. Our Governor continues to oppose it as well. I received under separate cover from this EDC advisory a letter from three former County Supervisors opposing the current majorities support for the City of SB will likely be opposing it as well. -- Sara

Santa Barbara City Council to Vote On Oil Moratorium

WHAT: The Santa Barbara City Council will consider a resolution (attached hereto) in support of the State and Federal Moratoria on New Offshore Oil and Gas Leasing off the Santa Barbara Coastline

WHEN: Tuesday, September 9, 2008, 6:00 p.m.

WHERE: City Council Chambers, Santa Barbara City Hall, De La Guerra Plaza, Santa Barbara, CA

WHY: According to the Memorandum issued by Mayor Marty Blum and Council members Helene Schneider and Das Williams, the proposed Resolution is intended to re-emphasize the City’s support of the oil moratorium, which has taken on new significance in light of the national media surrounding the August 26, 2008 Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors vote against the moratorium. The resolution notes that “City of Santa Barbara residents have long opposed new oil and gas drilling off their coastline” and that “the City of Santa Barbara is the site of the devastating oil spill of 1969 that led to the forming of the modern environmental movement and Earth Day worldwide.”

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Blogger Shane said...

The “moratorium” is a suspension of leasing and drilling for oil and gas in federal waters (more than 3 miles from shore). President Bush issued an executive order lifting the moratorium; for it to be effective, Congress must take similar action.

The Board of Supervisors’ letter to the Governor doesn’t read like a vote against the moratorium. The Governor has some influence over leasing of State tidelands (up to 3 miles from shore) – decisions on leasing in State waters are made by the State Lands Commission, which includes the Director of Finance and the Lieutenant Governor. Decisions on leasing in federal waters are made by the Minerals Management Service of the U.S. Department of Interior.

The draft City Council resolution has a Whereas on the recent Board of Supervisors’ action on oil drilling.

"WHEREAS on August 26, 2008 the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, on a 3-2 vote, authorized the County to send a letter to Governor Schwarzenegger to consider a change in policy that would allow expanded oil exploration and extraction in Santa Barbara County. Such decision reversed the County's position in 2007 that supported the continuation of the federal moratorium on new oil and gas leases in federal waters and prompted national headlines questioning this change of energy policy in Santa Barbara, California."

The City Council might refrain from placing too much importance on the Board of Supervisors’ action. The draft resolution does not track the actual letter from the Board majority and overstates its effect. As Nick Welch observed in the 9/05/08 Independent, although the 3-2 vote is understandable as a political statement, the ostensible reasons for the “policy change” in the letter have several technical flaws. (See letter to Governor from County Supervisors Carbajal and Wolf disagreeing with the Board majority; see also the column by Thomas Elias in today’s News-Press, pointing out that because of a lack of refining capacity in California drilling offshore will likely have no short-term effect on gas prices or supply.)

The text of the letter from the Board to the Governor is far mushier and less sweeping a change than the headlines, blogs and political spinners would have the public believe. The text of the letter, omitting the recitation of “considerations” prompting the vote, follows:

"…The policy of Santa Barbara County, in the past, has been to limit oil exploration and extraction. Currently, new facts and considerations have caused the County Board of Supervisors to review this policy….
…For all the above reasons we are suggesting that the State consider a change in policy that would allow expanded oil exploration and extraction in our county. We further suggest that, in keeping with past practices, such expansion would continue the best environmental, aesthetic and economic policies to maximize the benefits and minimize the potential problems for our community.

We would also suggest that federal, state and local governments collectively work toward the development of a broader energy policy that incorporates review of other viable energy resources, systems and technologies."

Bear in mind that Santa Barbara County, Goleta and Carpinteria are already considering several oil and gas projects on currently leased state waters. The letter to the Governor, whatever its flaws. doesn't say very much or call for concrete action. As noted, the Governor has no authority to approve or reject oil drilling in federal waters.

Because the Board’s vote is characterized as a change in policy and has perhaps been trumpeted as reflecting a change in public sentiment favoring oil drilling in Santa Barbara County (a dubious proposition – people in the North and South County have held divergent perspectives on oil issues for many years), it is appropriate that the City Council articulate its policy views on oil drilling and energy issues.

The use of sloganeering and spin instead of careful analysis ("drill now") seems inevitable but is indeed unfortunate. One hopes the city checks the facts and drafts the language of any resolution carefully.

9/05/2008 4:36 PM  
Anonymous Terry Leftgoff said...

This is a key historical moment politically, economically and environmentally.

The City needs to renew its opposition to offshore oil directed towards a national audience in the strongest possible language. This should not be a typical recitation against offshore oil; it should clearly explain the City's rationale in a carefully crafted statement for a panicy national audience that needs thoughtful education.

The nation is now listening; it is a criticasl moment in the national conversation during a tight presidential election where, for a variety of reasons, the issue has become a keystone topic.

The SB County Board's action has, rightly or wrongly, provided a widely publicized perception there has been a change of sentiment in the place where the heart of the environmental movement beats. The City needs to set the record straight and beat its heart loudly.

While most locals understand the historical north/south divergence of opinion on oil drilling, the national and regional media do not and it is completely missing from the sound bite on the national news. Even the LA Times, which has its own problems of late, missed the meaning and context of the decision.

Those on the side of Big Oil are already using the Board's vote as proof of a shift in public opinion on the issue. It is imperative the City clearly correct the record by articulating its historical reasons for opposing offshore drilling and highlight the real threats it poses.

It is an excellent opportunity to shift the focus of the conversation and re-educate the nation on the true longterm value of our Pacific coastal resources and highlight the health and livelihood of a typical California coastal based economy.

The City should also incorporate its position on sustainable energy policy and embrace Al Gore's call for truly clean and renewable energy within 10 years and reference the CEC's call for 'Fossil Free by 33'.

9/06/2008 12:23 PM  
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3/12/2009 11:13 PM  

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