Petro-Political Panic

by Nick Welsh

About 30 South Coast activists associated with the Santa Barbara
Chapter of — including former assemblymember Hannah-Beth
Jackson — gathered at the Chevron gas station by Hollister Avenue
and Storke Road to protest the recent spike in gasoline prices and
denounce the political influence oil companies exert through
campaign cash. In the past 16 years, they charged, oil companies
have donated $190 million to members of Congress, while reaping
windfalls totaling $8 billion in just the past few years.
(Democratic Congressmember Lois Capps, who represents coastal Santa
Barbara, has not received any oil industry money; Republican Elton
Gallegly, who represents the inland county, has received $68,000 in
such donations.) The event was one of 250 protests
countrywide, which were scheduled just one day before the House
planned to vote on a controversial new proposal — pushed by
California Congressmember Richard Pombo — to undermine the
congressional and presidential moratoriums on new oil drilling off
the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

The bill would allow states to maintain a limited version of the
existing moratoriums — extending only 100 miles offshore, as
opposed to the current 300 — but only if both the governor and the
legislature voted to do so. To entice political support from states
like Florida — with a strong history of support for oil moratoriums
— Pombo has agreed to an even split of oil revenues between
individual states and the federal government. Similar efforts by
Pombo lacked this provision and have failed. By opening up more of
the coast to oil development, Pombo contended, American energy
producers can tap up to 40 billion barrels of oil. Opponents — such
as Capps — insist the coast should not be industrialized or
subjected to additional risks of catastrophic oil spills or
blowouts, such as the one that clobbered Santa Barbara in 1969.
Capps’s spokesperson Emily Kryder expressed concern that the $69
billion in royalty revenues the federal government would lose to
states would have to be offset by cuts elsewhere. Although Kryder
said this latest version of the Pombo bill stands the best chance
of congressional passage, there’s been little enthusiasm for such
measures in the Senate, which would have the final say.


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