Environmentalists throughout Santa Barbara were left scratching their heads this week after Governor Schwarzenegger named 3rd District Supervisor Brooks Firestone (pictured) as an alternate to the 12-member California Coastal Commission (CCC). The 70-year-old Republican – who has come under fierce criticism by local environmentalists – will serve as the official stand-in for San Luis Obispo-based Commissioner Khatchik Achadjian, possibly granting Firestone even greater power in important decisions affecting the local coast. Firestone joins fellow South Coast Republican Dan Secord as a CCC alternate.

A barge that fills up with 55,000 gallons of crude oil twice a month at a mooring off Ellwood Beach has been docked for repairs. Venoco, which owns the barge, says it will be back in service by the end of the month.

The South Coast currently claims the unwelcome distinction of having the highest average gas prices in the state. According to AAA of California, the average price of gas in Santa Barbara County is $3.38, some 20 cents higher than the state average of $3.18. As of press time, the 76 station at the corner of State and La Cumbre took the dubious top honors in the 805, charging a whopping $3.45 per gallon.

Seven hundred cute, frisky, and fuel-efficient Mini Coopers zoomed into town as part of a cross-country road trip for owners of the small BMWs. Hosted locally by the computer support company Make It Work – which itself boasts a fleet of 39 Minis – the convoy of Mini enthusiasts departed early Tuesday morning, filling first local streets and then the 101 en route to Las Vegas. The tour will finish in Connecticut on Labor Day.

Martinis, pizzas, and pasta dishes beware: This year’s California olive crop is forecasted to be the smallest in more than 25 years. Late spring rainstorms knocked fragile olive blossoms off the trees, reducing the crop to about 50,000 tons, down 65 percent from last year. According to Santa Barbara Olive Company president Craig Makela, this will affect the prices of their olives, but he promises their quality will not suffer in the face of a poor harvest.

A federal judge ruled last week that a Bush administration plan to permit logging in Sequoia National Forest is illegal. Environmental groups sued the U.S. Forest Service last year when the administration moved to open the reserve to loggers.

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