Kayakers, surfers, and boaters head out to Platform Holly in the Santa Barbara Channel to protest oil drilling and unfurl a #crudeawakening banner. (Aug. 22, 2015)
Paul Wellman

Early Saturday morning, with a fog bank lifting and a slight breeze blowing, an eclectic flotilla of some 30 paddlers and one homemade sailing dory set out from Haskell’s Beach in Goleta. Their goal was Platform Holly 2.5 miles offshore, and their purpose was to raise awareness about four post-Refugio Spill pieces of oil-oriented legislation currently making their way out of committee hearings in Sacramento.

Organized by the folks from Patagonia, Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, and the Surfrider Foundation, the pointed high-seas adventure was aimed at upping the public profile of senate bills 788 (Mike McGuire), 414 (Hannah-Beth Jackson), and 29 (Jackson), as well as Assembly Bill 864 (Das Williams). The bills are designed to do everything from require annual inspections on all intrastate oil pipelines and ban the use of dispersants during post-spill cleanups to once and for all end the possibility of slant drilling from federal waters into state waters (e.g., Tranquillon Ridge) and require that oil companies use the “best available technology” when it comes to safeguarding their pipelines against spills like May’s infamous incident just west of Refugio State Park.

In explaining his company’s motivation for helping put on the paddle, Hans Cole, Patagonia’s director of environmental campaigns and advocacy, explained, “While we all remain dependent on fossil fuels, we don’t need more reckless offshore drilling. We believe environmental disasters can move our society in the right direction — toward renewable alternatives, and safer ways of producing oil and gas in the interim. Offshore oil production is just too risky — oil spills are simply inevitable.”

The paddle reached it’s apex moment when the crew heaved a 70-foot floating banner into the waters near Holly that read “#CrudeAwakening.” For its part, Venoco, Inc., who owns and operates Platform Holly, responded to the action with the following statement from Vice President Michael Wracher Sr.: “We understand and appreciate the interest in improved safeguards to ensure responsible production, which is why we support Senator Hannah Beth Jackson’s SB 295. … [We] support the calls today for improvements to mandated inspection standards as described in this legislation.”


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