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Anti-Drilling Group Supports Drilling:

The 1969 oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara was a major catalyst for environmental reforms, and spurred the creation of GOO! (Get the Oil Out), an environmental group dedicated to opposing offshore oil drilling. But something has changed in the intervening decades.

Thirty-nine years later, GOO! is still around. But this April the group did something astonishing. It publicly supported an oil company's proposal to drill off the coast of Santa Barbara.

Houston-based Plains Exploration and Production Company proposed drilling 22 wells from a platform 4.7 miles from land. It made numerous concessions to the local environmental groups that would curtail drilling in about a decade -- and in the end even the adamantly "no-drilling" crowd agreed that the deal was beneficial for everyone. The Environmental Defense Center, a nonprofit environmental law firm, endorsed the plan. Abe Powell, president of GOO!, told the Los Angeles Times it was "good for the community." Terry Leftgoff, a former GOO! executive director, wrote in the Santa Barbara Independent the deal was "a brilliant proposal that finally gives the public something back: the certain removal of four offshore oil platforms, the decommissioning of a notorious industrial plant, and the reversion of rural land subjugated into oil development back into the public trust as parkland."

When an environmental group formed for the sole purpose of opposing offshore oil drilling warmly embraces a plan to drill off its own coast, you know something important has changed in our culture: Americans have recognized that offshore oil drilling is largely safe.

Environmentally sensitive oil exploration and extraction has been possible for quite some time. The National Audubon Society and a state affiliate first allowed oil and gas development in their preserves decades ago, on the condition that oil companies agreed to various measures to lessen the impact of such development. In one case, Audubon allowed drilling and extraction in a nature preserve too sensitive for tourism or birdwatching. In another, ten years after drilling ended it was impossible to identify where it had taken place.

I first wrote about this in 1991 after interviewing some of the preserve managers. (I can't find the op-eds online, but I found this letter.) As one described it, when Audubon was approached by an oil company, their response was essentially "you can drill if you pay us royalties and can prevent the following impacts." This prompted the oil companies to devote their energies to meeting Audubon's demands, leading to significant innovation.

Government agencies often impose requirements on oil and gas development on federal lands or offshore, but they are rarely so tailored to the specific ecological conditions of a given site. Government agencies are also less adept than private owners at negotiating these sorts of deals, particularly when constrained by broad regulatory requirements. Nonetheless, when oil companies have an incentive to reduce the environmental impacts of oil development, they are often able to do quite a bit.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Anti-Drilling "Snake Oil":
  2. Anti-Drilling Group Supports Drilling:
John Armstrong (mail) (www):
This is great! Finally, two sides of an issue sitting down and talking out a compromise instead of running off screaming and crying to their respective bases. Hopefully a harbinger of things to come!
7.12.2008 12:04pm
RKV (mail):
Since I live in Santa Barbara and have for 35 years I know a bit more about this than has been published. If you like $5 or $8 a gallon gas, let's have more deals like this. GOO needs to be destroyed, not praised. You'll notice how the property reverts to parkland? Why do that? We have plenty around here, and what we really need it TAX BASE. Or haven't you folks been paying attention to the California state budget for the last several years? The rest of the story is that the county will impose a tax on all oil drilled in the county so as to up their revenue. Mean time we all pay more for oil products, and the government gets to continue to grow.
7.12.2008 12:27pm
TomHynes (mail):
Follow the money.

Jonathan hinted at it with "you can drill if you pay us royalties". RKV pointed out that the "county will impose a tax on all oil drilled in the county so as to up their revenue"

I suspect we are missing some pieces to this puzzle.
7.12.2008 12:30pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Negotiating with environmentalists is like negotiating with terrorists-- don't do it because you will come out the loser. I once worked in the environmental field (systems ecology) and I got a good taste of the kind of people that run in these circles. They will stop at nothing.
7.12.2008 12:38pm
Oren:
You'll notice how the property reverts to parkland? Why do that?
Because the voters overwhelmingly support that sort of thing?

As one described it, when Audubon was approached by an oil company, their response was essentially "you can drill if you pay us royalties and can prevent the following impacts." This prompted the oil companies to devote their energies to meeting Audubon's demands, leading to significant innovation.
This is a very positive development for those of us that are convinced that the extractive industries could reduce their impacts if they put half as much effort into it as they currently do trying to dodge regulation. Of course, the fact that they do so is proof-positive that our current mode of regulation is poorly designed.
7.12.2008 1:17pm
EH (mail):
Zarkov: You're splitting.
7.12.2008 1:24pm
Smokey:
...when Audubon was approached by an oil company, their response was essentially "you can drill if you pay us royalties..."
It's all about the money, and how environmentaist groups can extort it to line their own pockets. The oil drilling companies might as well be dealing with Jesse Jackson.


Oh, and EH: You're projecting.
7.12.2008 1:35pm
dearieme:
I don't understand the problem. The British oil industry in the North Sea has done no harm to our coasts that I can remember - and North Sea conditions are surely pretty difficult. Why is California different? Earthquakes?
7.12.2008 1:37pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"Zarkov: You're splitting."

Yes I am. Sometimes you have to do that to convey the sense of something in just a few words.

I could go on about the fine environmentalists that I had the pleasure to work, with and the very high quality work they produced. I only found out later that I was singularly lucky.
7.12.2008 1:53pm
RKV (mail):
Earthquakes are a very real concern here in Santa Babylon, and not just for the oil industry (on or offshore). I surf, sail, fish and scuba dive so I can tell you a couple of things... 1)I've been removing the tar from my feet just about every time I walk on the beach since 1973 (there are natural seeps). 2) The local oil industry has been decimated since I came here. 3) There is still plenty of oil in the ground here - the bad news is that it is heavy grade.

Oren, if the voters approve theft, it's still theft (channeling Janice Rogers Brown in San Remo Hotel v. City and County of San Francisco).
7.12.2008 2:07pm
EH (mail):
Smokey:
Oh, and EH: You're projecting.


No, I'm making an observation. I'm not deriving any meaning or consequence to my life from Zarkov's actions. Now, if you're saying that I'm denigrating Zarkov by pointing out that he's splitting, then that speaks to meaning, but in that case it would be you who is assigning a negative connotation to my statement and are therefore "projecting" yourself.

Zarkov:
Sometimes you have to do that [splitting] to convey the sense of something in just a few words.


Yet it is the splitting itself that you are convey the sense of, since by your own words the "something" was more nuanced than what you said. It's the difference between being honest and shooting from the hip.
7.12.2008 2:44pm
Oren:
Oren, if the voters approve theft, it's still theft (channeling Janice Rogers Brown in San Remo Hotel v. City and County of San Francisco).
It might still be theft but it's also the democratically-ratified, and hence legitimate, policy of the government. Moral authority to disregard the stated will of the voters is not vested in anonymous blog posters on the internet.
7.12.2008 3:07pm
TJIT (mail):
Oren,

I never realized you were such a fan of Bush and his policies.

After all his election was democratically-ratified and hence legitimate.

And apparently moral authority to disregard the stated will of the voters is not vested in anonymous blog posters on the internet.

Not exactly my opinion but according to your stated standards, the voters elected Bush and that is all it takes to make Bush, and his policies, legitimate.
7.12.2008 3:53pm
Oren:
Of course Bush and his policies (insofar as they comply with the law, which they do for the most part) are legitimate. I disagree with them but there is certainly a difference between disagreeing and decrying as illegitimate.
7.12.2008 4:33pm
Michael B (mail):
"Anti-drilling group supports drilling" would have been an intriguing headline c. the 70's or 80's. This is 2008.

Moving toward $5.00/gallon gas; moving toward a trillion dollar a year oil import habit (and yes, that's toward $1,000,000,000,000 per year, fellow citizens tax payers); we import 70% of our oil (it was 24% in 1970); we import that oil from places like Saudi Arabia and Venezuela; we have sizeable reserves in a notably small section of northern Alaska; we have huge reserves in the eastern Gulf; we have huge reserves on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts; huge shale oil reserves in the Rockies; technology has advanced hugely to help ensure environmental safeguards and other limits can be responsibly codified.

Yet enviromental dilettantes and extremists inveigh and preach and browbeat and posture and pose and we continue to succomb, while Obama styled politicians talk about "change" as if the term is merely a mantra for purposes of garnering votes rather than reflective of something substantial, critical and reality bound.

That doesn't address other energy sources, but it addresses the most critical source in the present and near to medium term future.
7.12.2008 5:24pm
RKV (mail):
Oren, Your moral compass is in need of re-alignment. Mob rule is not equal to limited government.
7.12.2008 6:46pm
Oren:
technology has advanced hugely to help ensure environmental safeguards and other limits can be responsibly codified.
And yet there is powerful reluctance by the extractive industries to put all those new technologies to use.
7.12.2008 6:59pm
Oren:
Oren, Your moral compass is in need of re-alignment. Mob rule is not equal to limited government.
Perhaps you could tell me what sort of principle might limit the government's authority in this instance?

I have no problem with the either the concept or execution of limited government but all too often it becomes an empty rhetorical device conveying no other meaning other than the speaker's disapproval of the government policy in question.
7.12.2008 7:04pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
RFK Jr. provides a case study on how the environmentalists operate. He's an environmental lawyer, activist, and an extreme opponent on ANWAR drilling. You can hear him at the link given above copied here. One statement he makes, which gets repeated endlessly is that the oil in all protected areas, including Alaska and offshore and other areas is less than 2% of proven global reserves. Let's deconstruct that statement.

1. Is the statement meaningful?

2. Is it relevant?

3. Is it accurate?

4. What is a realistic uncertainty estimate?

The answer to all those questions is "no." I can go through each question methodically, but I'm afraid the people who agree don't need convincing and those who are opposed will ignore what I say anyway. USGS estimates for Alaska are provided here.
The confidence intervals for their estimates are very wide, about a factor of three. I suspect their statistical methodology is flawed. It's also worth noting that industry is precluded by law from conducting seismic soundings in ANWAR.

BTW RFK's voice sounds somewhat abnormal. Perhaps he's still on drugs. Recall he was convicted of heroin possession.
7.12.2008 9:20pm
Brooklyn (mail):
Why drill when we could stop driving? I'm surprised no one makes a national security argument out of the obesity epidemic. When push comes to shove and we need the militia, the fatties are gonna be useless. So if gas prices force people to walk more and drive less, then in the end we'll make better soldiers.
7.12.2008 9:44pm
TJIT (mail):
Oren you said,
And yet there is powerful reluctance by the extractive industries to put all those new technologies to use.
Got a list of those technologies?
7.12.2008 11:02pm
Dreadnaught (www):
I spoke with one of the lawyers working on this issue about 2 months ago. He told me he had been working on this deal for 4 years. I was skeptical of it being approved. Little did I know.
7.12.2008 11:06pm
Smokey:
Oren:

[Attempting to explain why theft, if approved by the voters, is A-OK. BUT...]:
Of course Bush and his policies (insofar as they comply with the law, which they do for the most part) are legitimate.
BWAA-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-A-A!!

So theft, which does not comply with any law, is fine so long as the voters approve of it ...unless it's the ee-e-e-vil George W. Bush who, in the opinion of Oren, is violating the law.

That hypocrisy is simply yummy!

Sorry, Oren, but you stepped in this one.
7.12.2008 11:07pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
RFK Jr. on Karina and Kyoto.

"As Hurricane Katrina dismantles Mississippi's Gulf Coast, it's worth recalling the central role that [Republican] Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour played in derailing the Kyoto Protocol and kiboshing President Bush's iron-clad campaign promise to regulate CO2.
Strictly speaking RFK Jr. does not assert a causal connection between Koyoto and the Katrina hurricane. However he does seem to imply a connection between atmospheric co2 concentration and either hurricane frequency of intensity. No such connection has been established.

This is how the environmental terrorists operate. Make a technically true statement, but juxtapose assertions to imply a causal connection. A lay person not listening carefully could certainly form that connection.
7.13.2008 12:08am
LM (mail):
A. Zarkov,

If implying the unproven makes RFK Jr. a terrorist, words have no meaning. By that definition someone should arrest the whole blogosphere.
7.13.2008 3:05am
A. Zarkov (mail):
"If implying the unproven makes RFK Jr. a terrorist, words have no meaning."

Obviously I'm engaging in hyperbole. An environmental terrorist is someone who tires to spread fear, not someone who blows up buildings and shoots people in shopping malls. Environmental activists like RFK Jr. try to scare the public about pesticides, ionizing radiation, global warming, air pollution etc. Listen to JFK Jr. talk about nuclear reactors and insurance, but not say anything about the imposed strict liability. He's certainly a fear monger. Note also that I didn't say "terrorist." I said "environmental terrorist" and the meaning of that should be clear from context.
7.13.2008 3:45am
LM (mail):
A. Zarkov:

Obviously I'm engaging in hyperbole.
An environmental terrorist is someone who tires to spread fear, not someone who blows up buildings and shoots people in shopping malls.

Sorry, but that's not hyperbole. It's redefining terms, with a straw man thrown in for good measure. An environmental terrorist is a tree spiker, not an activist whose unproven dire implications (if that's indeed what RFK Jr.'s comments are) you disagree with.
7.13.2008 5:22am
A. Zarkov (mail):
LM:

"An environmental terrorist is a tree spiker,..."

If you want to get pedantic, the term for a "tree spiker" is an "eco-terrorist," and that's materially different from an "environmental terrorist,"

"which describes attacks against, or using, the environment or natural resources for political or military objectives."
RFK Jr. is using the environment and natural resources for a political objective, so I'm engaging in hyperbole at worst. However these are all neologisms anyway and what I meant should have been clear from context. As for RFK Jr., he goes beyond an activist who makes "unproven dire implications." He makes errors and omissions designed to spread extreme fear. It's not just a matter of opinion.
7.13.2008 12:32pm
Oren:
Oren:

[Attempting to explain why theft, if approved by the voters, is A-OK. BUT... Acknowledging the legitimacy of popularly supported policies, even those I disagree with]:

Of course Bush and his policies (insofar as they comply with the law, which they do for the most part) are legitimate. [emph added]


BWAA-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-A-A!!

So theft, which does not comply with any law, is fine so long as the voters approve of it ...unless it's the ee-e-e-vil George W. Bush who, in the opinion of Oren, is violating the law.

What the hell are you talking about? I said Bush's policies are legitimate because they are democratically ratified and do follow the law.

Reading comprehension is key.
7.13.2008 12:33pm
LM (mail):
A. Zarkov,

If you want to get pedantic, the term for a "tree spiker" is an "eco-terrorist," and that's materially different from an "environmental terrorist,"

Yes, I'm aware of that distinction (not universally adopted, by the way), and I chose not to point that out because that would have been nit-picking. If conflating the meaning of a term (whether "eco" or "environmental") that connotes actual violence with someone you disagree with -- and that's all you've established -- is hyperbole, it's not a rhetorical move that serves constructive debate. It's just name-calling.
7.13.2008 1:34pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
LM:

"If conflating the meaning of a term (whether "eco" or "environmental") that connotes actual violence with someone you disagree with ..."

As is clear from the definition, an environmental terrorist need not use direct physical violence. My disagreement with RFK Jr. and others of his ilk goes beyond a mere disagreement over scientific facts. They use tactics that could cause real physical harm.

You might find Michael Crichton's speech on Complexity Theory and Environmental Management informative. The transcript is here. Note in particular his medical story where a doctor saved a man's life by lifting a curse. Medical intervention failed because the mind alone can make the body sick. Fear mongering can cause real harm.
7.13.2008 5:31pm
Michael B (mail):
Moving toward $5.00/gallon gas; moving toward a trillion dollar a year oil import habit (and yes, that's toward $1,000,000,000,000 per year, fellow citizens tax payers); we import 70% of our oil (it was 24% in 1970); we import that oil from places like Saudi Arabia and Venezuela; we have sizeable reserves in a notably small section of northern Alaska; we have huge reserves in the eastern Gulf; we have huge reserves on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts; huge shale oil reserves in the Rockies; technology has advanced hugely to help ensure environmental safeguards and other limits can be responsibly codified.
"And yet there is powerful reluctance by the extractive industries to put all those new technologies to use." Oren
That's it, that's your response, to invoke the spectre of evil "extractive industries"?
7.14.2008 8:29am
LM (mail):
A. Zarkov,

I don't dispute the power of fear, just your unsupported assertion that RFK, Jr. is fear-mongering.

Fear mongering is often in the eye of the beholder. You apparently see it in predictions of AGW bringing more Hurricane Katrinas. Other people see it in warnings about smoking guns taking the form of mushroom clouds. (Does the tobacco industry still insist the hoopla about lung cancer is just fear mongering?) But those perceptions overlook that when somebody honestly believes what he's warning about, he may be wrong, and his advice may be useless or worse, but we don't call what he's doing "fear mongering." We call it "trying to be helpful." I see no evidence RFK, Jr. doesn't believe what he said. If you do, please fill me in.

I was hoping to avoid a semantic argument over the definition of environmental terrorism, but you keep saying or implying it means something it doesn't. I agree with the definition you quoted:

"attacks against, or using, the environment or natural resources for political or military objectives"

For example, blowing up an oil well, or grounding an oil tanker off a resort coastline. In other words, "attack" means "attack" and "use" means "use." They don't mean "talk," "argue," "warn" or "scare monger."

Back to RFK Jr., he said something ambiguous, the likely implication of which (i.e., that tropical storm severity should at least roughly correlate with the rising ocean temperatures predicted to follow AGW) you presumably disagree with. But for what he said to be "fear mongering" it would have to be intentionally exaggerated, and you've given no indication it is. Instead, you bootstrapped it a second time by reading "environmental fear-mongering" into the definition of "environmental terrorism." (And I just explained why that's wrong.)

So an arguable prediction becomes fear mongering, which in turn becomes environmental terrorism. Don't you see that that's the sort of Orwellian gymnastics people use to rationalize fudging the truth?
7.14.2008 11:22am
shawn-non-anonymous:
As a Santa Barbara Native (but living in Florida now), I recall my Marine Bio class at college there. Most of the oil seepage that gets on the beach is natural. There was some discussion that drilling reduced the pressure at the seeps and reduced them. (I do not have access to the data so I'm uncertain if this was ever proven.) I do know that the natural seeps were only an annoyance to people that spent time on the beaches. There was no major damage to the ecosystem from them. (I imagine some vegetation got covered by it from time to time, but that's about it.)

There really are lots of parks in Santa Barbara. New ones are appreciated as well. This is one of the things that makes living there so different than other cities along the California coastline. It certainly distinguishes it from the Metro LA cities. If you're ever in SB, I highly recommend the Alice Keck Memorial Gardens.

The oil rigs in question are called the "5 mile dereks" which conveniently line up to mark that distance as you sail out of the harbor. (at least, that's what we and other local sailors call them. I'm sure they have other, more official names.)

Santa Barbara gets a lot of it's character from the local environment. The 1969 spill had an enormous effect on the locals. It was covered extensively in my SBCC biological oceanography and marine bio classes back in the mid-80s. Pictures of it could be seen from time to time around the city, usually in combination with pro-environmental literature.

It's also worth noting that Santa Barbara has historically kept growth to a bare minimum. They've used water rationing and other methods to keep the city small (around 200K people) and not become part of the metro LA sprawl. There has been conflict over this for as long as I can remember. It was discussed over the dinner table many nights and my dad still talks about it when I visit. RKV's comments about "tax base" are part of the language of this conflict.
7.14.2008 1:05pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
LM:

Our basic disagreement comes down to whether JFK Jr fear mongers. Evidently you don't think he tries to scare people about the environment and natural resources. However when I see someone engage in a series of false statements or exaggerations, always linking to some dire consequence, I think he's using fear for political ends, not "arguable prediction." He frequently holds back information to make something seem scary. We could go through these things one by one.

As far as the term "environmental terror" goes, you read that definition differently by a narrow interpretation of the word "use." Some activists like RFK Jr. use environmental issues for political ends. The essay by Crichton explores these ideas more fully.
7.14.2008 3:56pm
LM (mail):
No, I do think he tries to scare people. I also think George Bush tries to scare people, as do my mechanic and my dentist. But until I see evidence of dishonesty or bad motives, none of them is a scare monger.
7.14.2008 7:03pm
Oren:
That's it, that's your response, to invoke the spectre of evil "extractive industries"?
Who said anything about evil? They are good folks trying to provide needed commodities. Unfortunately, they have no particular incentive to minimize the negative environmental effects.
7.16.2008 5:11pm