Center for Biological Diversity

Media Advisory, January 23, 2019

Contacts:  Blake Kopcho, (805) 708-3435,
Tomás Morales Rebecchi, (619) 252-6899,
Bill Hickman, (619) 804-6264,
Cassady Craighill, (828) 817-3328,

Protest to Mark Santa Barbara Spill's 50th Anniversary, Trump Drilling Plans

CAMARILLO, Calif.— Californians will mark the 50th anniversary of the massive Santa Barbara oil spill by protesting outside the federal office working to drastically expand offshore drilling in U.S. waters. The Trump administration’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has continued to work on this five-year leasing plan and communicate with the oil industry during the current federal government shutdown, despite taking no other public input.

The offshore spill that began Jan. 28, 1969 in the Santa Barbara Channel gushed more than 3 million gallons of oil and killed thousands of marine animals and birds. Public outrage over the spill helped spark the modern environmental movement and passage of the country’s most significant environmental laws.

President Trump last year proposed expanding offshore drilling into most U.S. oceans, including offering the first leases in the Pacific Ocean since 1984. The next draft of the five-year offshore leasing plan could be released at any time. The plan calls for the first new offshore leases to be offered in hazardous Arctic waters later this year.

What: Protest against expanded offshore oil drilling on the 50th anniversary of the Santa Barbara oil spill.

Where: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s Pacific regional office, 760 Paseo Camarillo, Camarillo, CA

When: Monday, Jan. 28 at 10 a.m.

Who: Organizers include the Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace, Surfrider Foundation, Food and Water Watch, and Citizens for Responsible Oil and Gas.

“Offshore oil drilling has taken a devastating toll on our country over the past 50 years. We need to learn from that history instead of adopting a reckless plan that’s doomed to repeat it,” said Blake Kopcho, an organizer with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Our coastlines and climate can’t take another Santa Barbara spill or Deepwater Horizon disaster. Rather than working to fulfill the oil industry’s wishlist during this government shutdown, we need to permanently shut down offshore drilling.”    

“Time is up for our political leaders to learn the lesson of devastating oil spills like the 1969 Santa Barbara spill, the Exxon Valdez in Alaska and the Deepwater Horizon nightmare that killed 11 people,” said Greenpeace USA Executive Director Annie Leonard. “Oil companies like Shell and Exxon are trying again to drill off our U.S. coasts from California to Virginia despite the fact that we have barely a decade left to avoid climate catastrophe. Helped by Trump’s polluter cabinet in the White House, these companies see one last opportunity to line the pockets of corporate executives at the expense of all of us. The good news is that everyday people have derailed these plans before, and we can do it again.”  

“If a spill like this happened today our local economies would be devastated. Local businesses and residents should not be burdened with that risk, especially when regulations designed to protect public health and the environment are being rolled back or not enforced,” said Kimberly Rivers, executive director of Californians for Regulated Oil & Gas (CFROG).

“The 50th anniversary of the Santa Barbara oil spill is a grim reminder of how far we have to go in stopping not only offshore drilling, but onshore oil and gas expansion as well,” said Tomás Morales Rebecchi, senior Central Coast organizer with Food & Water Watch. “If Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to lead opposition to the Trump administration’s plans to expand dangerous offshore drilling, he should start by ending drilling in California state waters and onshore throughout the state. The vibrant environmental movement sparked by this disaster so many years ago, which includes local communities fighting drilling in their backyards, would welcome his support.”

“The Santa Barbara oil spill was wake-up call we should have listened to. We passed environmental laws and raised public awareness about the dangers of offshore drilling, but that didn’t protect our oceans and coastlines,” said Bill Hickman, Southern California regional manager with the Surfrider Foundation. “Nothing can make offshore drilling safe, as we saw with the Refugio spill and the Deepwater Horizon disaster. We need to stop the disastrous plan to expand offshore drilling off Southern California and other coasts of the United States.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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