Oil Spills and Fracking

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.

Taking Action

Since 2005, CCKA has urged top state officials to dedicate more funds to oil spill prevention. Following the Cosco Busan spill in 2007, CCKA served the public as the appointed Environmental Community Representative to the Coast Guard’s Incident Specific Preparedness Review (ISPR) for the Cosco Busan spill and supported a comprehensive package of oil spill legislation. In 2015, CCKA supported reforms to improve oil-pipeline safety, preparedness and response by requiring regular inspections, better technology including automated shutoffs, and more effective oil-spill response. These bills were signed into law by Governor Brown. CCKA also worked with its Blue Business Council members to stop new slant oil drilling next to the Vandenberg Marine Reserve, a haven for whales, lobsters and hundreds of species of fish. The measure was killed after the oil lobby poured millions into opposing the reform, but CCKA continues to watchdog ongoing efforts by the oil lobby to exploit loopholes and to work with California’s seafood companies, fishermen and women, and recreational and tourism businesses who depend on a healthy ocean to adopt stronger oil spill prevention and response laws. This year, CCKA is working with Santa Barbara Channelkeeper to support Senate Bill 900, which would authorize a program to identify and remediate California’s legacy oil wells.

There is an extensive record of public health concerns, water and air pollution, seismic activity, and property damage associated with fracking operations nationwide. While big oil is investing heavily in “unconventional” means of extracting oil locked deep in California’s shale formations, those activities remain essentially unregulated. We support a moratorium on fracking until the impacts of fracking have been comprehensively and independently assessed.

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