An oil spill on the coast of Santa Barbara, California in 1969 was one of the events that led to the current environmental movement in the United States. Today, 46 years later, another oil spill is soiling the same coastline, destroying a rich marine life and potentially affecting the region’s big tourism industry. A lesson has not been learned.
The rupture of a pipeline by the company Plains All American Pipeline, which had been revised two weeks ago, puts the spotlight once again on the ever-present danger of spills in the oil industry, and the nation’s dependency on energy resources that contribute to global contamination and climate change.
Regrettably, what happened in Santa Barbara is all too common. A federal study estimated that there have been 8,000 serious pipelines breaks since 1986, causing more than 2,300 injured as well as damages valued at $7,000 million. It is estimated that 35% of those incidents were caused by corrosion or other spontaneous structural failures.
This kind of rupture is one of the reasons behind the strong opposition to the construction of a portion of the Keystone Pipeline, which would run from the oil sand fields in Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Experience brings to mind the danger of spills and the industry’s lack of accountability in those cases.
For example, a Louisiana company is drilling today three miles from the Macondo platform that blew up in 2010, seeking to exploit the same deepwater oil and gas reserves. Also in the Gulf of Mexico, an oil rig from the Taylor Energy Company has been spilling oil for 10 years after suffering hurricane damages. According to federal studies, this could go on for 100 years. Furthermore, the authorities also suspect that there may be leaks from 25 wells that remain buried under mounds of sediment since 2010.
Using alternative and renewable energy resources has many advantages in trying to reduce the dependency on carbon products like oil. However, the priorities of the GOP-led Congress are aligned with the industry. Initiatives on solar, wind or other kinds of energies are torpedoed at every step. They are also determined to weaken the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is in charge of regulation.
The Santa Barbara spill makes us relive a story that we are condemned to repeat once again if we do not move forward smartly, and aggressively, towards cleaner sources of energy