It’s like 16 trucks pulling up to the beach and dumping every drop of oil into the Pacific Ocean.
Oil on the beach at Refugio State Park in Santa Barbara, California, on May 19, 2015. (U.S. Coast Guard)
Controversy is brewing over just how much crude oil fouled pristine beaches and ocean waters in the Golden State as a result of the Refugio oil spill in May 2015.
On February 17, a preliminary factual report issued by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration indicates an additional 1,000 barrels of oil may have ended up in our ocean. This puts the total spill volume at an estimated 3,400 barrels or 142,800 gallons.
That’s like having 16 trucks pull up to the beach and dumping every drop of oil into the Pacific Ocean to spread towards unique and irreplaceable places like the Naples Reef State Marine Conservation Area and Kashtayit State Marine Conservation Area, which was established to protect and celebrate the coastal culture practiced by Chumash Indians for millennia.
The Gulf of Mexico received an early gift during this holiday season with the release of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) Early Restoration Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS). While this acronym may sound highly technical, the PEIS is an important milestone for public engagement in the early restoration process after the BP oil disaster, and Ocean Conservancy applauds the NRDA Trustees for this achievement.
You can find the full document online here. It’s nearly 2,500 pages, but don’t worry; in the coming weeks, Ocean Conservancy will conduct a thorough review of the entire PEIS and the projects in it and share our findings with you.
So why is a PEIS so critical to restoring the Gulf?
The people of the Gulf are still suffering from this tragedy.
Three years ago, I found myself at a late-night community meeting on the coast in Alabama to discuss the oil disaster. At that point, oil was still spewing uncontrolled from the wellhead and huge portions of the Gulf were closed to fishing—meaning that thousands of people were out of a job and countless more were unable to enjoy doing the things they’d always taken for granted, like fishing, boating and swimming in the Gulf.
About an hour in, a broad-shouldered, weathered man stood up to discuss what this disaster meant for him. He explained that he made his living as a fisherman and now couldn’t afford to feed his family. As he talked, his voice began to break, and he struggled to keep talking through the tears. It was then that I knew this disaster was deeper than the sheen on the water; it was in the hearts of each Gulf resident.