The California State Assembly is refusing to provide the names of assemblymen who voted to ban oil recovery off the coast of Santa Barbara.
Twenty-eight members supported the ban, but their votes cannot be found in the official state database. Assembly leaders expunged the votes in order to spare lawmakers running for re-election an official record of their controversial decision.
Killed by Special Interests
Natural oil seeps found at Tranquillon Ridge off the Santa Barbara coast are despoiling the marine environment, and community leaders, industry, and local environmental activists all support oil recovery that would reduce underground pressure and thereby lower the volume of natural seeps.
But environmental activist groups outside the Santa Barbara region lobbied hard against oil recovery, arguing it might set a precedent for offshore oil recovery in other parts of the state.
With California facing enormous budget shortfalls and a potential economic catastrophe, oil recovery would have provided an important source of new jobs and tax revenue. Fearing a backlash from voters angry over a win-win proposal for the economy and the environment being derailed by assembly members in collusion with environmental activists, assembly leaders decided to expunge the names on each side of the vote.
Joe Armendariz, executive director of the Santa Barbara Technology and Industry Association, strongly supports oil recovery as a way of beautifying area beaches while stimulating the local economy and providing funds to reduce the state’s enormous budget deficit.
“The proposed oil recovery project is one of the most responsible, carefully thought out oil development projects in a long time,” Armendariz said.
Plains Exploration & Production, which was to oversee the offshore oil recovery, had signed a historic agreement with the Environmental Defense Center, Get Oil Out! and the Citizens Planning Association of Santa Barbara that would have allowed for temporary offshore oil recovery. The agreement also required Plains to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect significant lands in Santa Barbara County.
Economy, Environment Lose
By not allowing the drilling on Tranquillon Ridge, state lawmakers are making two serious mistakes, according to Tom Tanton, a senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute.
“One [mistake] is they’re adding to the deficit in the state budget. We’re talking 100 million dollars in the first year, and that would have made a significant contribution to the state budget,” said Tanton.
“The other thing they’re doing is, as you know, they’re contributing to the persistent oil on the beaches,” said Tanton.
“We have been consistently in favor of ethical, safe, resource development off the continental shelf in order to address our energy crisis and to generate the necessary revenues we need, not only at the state level but also for local governments,” Armendariz said.
Alyssa Carducci ([email protected]) writes from Tampa, Florida.