In the wake of the BP Gulf Oil spill, Representative Lois Capps joined Mayor Helene Schneider and Santa Barbara officials yesterday evening to highlight recent legislation on oil drilling procedures and to discuss ways that Santa Barbara could better prepare itself for a similar situation.

“We cannot allow these companies to police themselves,” Capps said to the audience of about 40.

Among the legislation she helped pen, Capps required oil companies to seek third-party verification throughout different stages of drilling.

The forum held at the Santa Barbara Natural History Museum, dubbed “Oil Spill Risk and Response in the Santa Barbara Channel,” is the second in the series of discussions to prevent local disaster in the case of an oil spill.

“There will be other accidents offshore,” Capps warned the crowd.

The April explosion on BP’s Deepwater Horizon claimed 11 lives and led to more than 60,000 barrels of oil being spewed into the Gulf daily for almost three months.

“This is a county that knows from past experiences,” Capps said, referring to the Santa Barbara Channel spill of 1969.

The estimated 100,000 barrels of crude oil that contaminated channel waters during a two-week period beginning in January 1969 remains the largest oil spill in California history.

“What can we learn from this incident?” Capps said. “We need to come up with a series of steps to prevent another disaster like this.”

Mayor Schneider, who traveled to Louisiana in June to tour the spill, said that the state’s response plan is key to containment in the case of a spill off our coastline. Schneider also pushed the idea of constant communication between oil well and local officials.

“Mayors aren’t the ones who’ll clean up the spill, but mayors are the ones closest to the constituency,” said Schneider.

“The 1969 spill is in our psyche.”

Steve Dunn, a Santa Barbara native and president of the Citizens Planning Association, spoke to the economic impacts on fisheries and tourism an oil spill could have on Santa Barbara.

“Oil could devastate this industry,” said Dunn.

According to Dunn, the amount of seafood fished in the Santa Barbara Channel translates into $157.4 million of economic value, much of which is served to the eight million visitors to the area per year.

Captain Roger R. Laferriere, U.S. Coast Guard commander and Gulf incident commander, recapped his work in the Gulf and spoke on the importance of transparency in the face of a spill.

“We must do a better job of informing,” said Laferriere. “An oil spill involves all of us.

“There’ll be another oil spill, I guarantee it. We just have to be prepared to fight it.”


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