Oil Spills and Fracking
The environmental movement was launched in 1969 after disasters such as the Santa Barbara oil spill highlighted the irreparable environmental and economic harm of a single event. Unfortunately, California’s coast, ocean and bays have repeatedly been struck by environmental disaster. In November 2007, the container ship Cosco Busan struck the Bay Bridge and released approximately 53,000 gallons of oil into San Francisco Bay and along the coastline outside the Golden Gate Bridge; a second smaller spill from the Dubai Star oil tanker in 2009 polluted six miles of the East Bay shoreline of San Francisco Bay. In May 2015, history repeated itself in Santa Barbara when the onshore All American pipeline ruptured, spilling more than 140,000 gallons of crude oil onto one of the last remaining stretches of pristine, undeveloped coastline in California. An estimated 21,000 gallons escaped into the Santa Barbara Channel, home to the Refugio State Beach and the protected Naples Marine Conservation Area. In addition to oil spills on the shoreline, smaller inland spills collectively release more than half a million gallons of oil into inland waters annually (roughly nine times the volume of the Cosco Busan spill).
Hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” is the process of injecting millions of gallons of water, sand and toxic chemicals underground at high pressure to release and extract oil or gas. Water contamination associated with fracking is a major concern. During the fracking process, fluid can cause surface and groundwater water pollution as a result of leaks, blowouts and other accidents. Water contamination also occurs during transport, storage, or improper disposal. Produced water can be very dangerous as it contains many deep underground contaminants, including total dissolved solids, organic pollutants, and radioactive materials. Additionally, the massive water requirements needed for fracking, up to nine million gallons per well, poses a major challenge for drought stricken California. Methane contamination in drinking water wells can also pose a serious health risk.