ENCINITAS — As a new round of Congressional hearings into the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico opened Monday afternoon in Washington, D.C., local
residents, environmental groups and activists are reeling from the impact of the recent debacle.
In response to the
environmental disaster, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced two weeks ago that the spill off the coast of Louisiana had caused him to reconsider his support for the California drilling proposal.
“Whether his opposition to drilling is related to a specific project or not, we are very pleased the governor is currently opposing drilling,” Stefanie Sekich-Quinn, campaign specialist for the Surfrider Foundation, said.
“Realizing oil spills have devastating economic and environmental impacts that are far-reaching is a good first step,” she said. Sekich-Quinn explained that oil drilling can be a threat in California even if President Obama didn’t
list it in his plans last month. “There was a piece of legislation introduced
in Sacramento this spring that would have opened California waters to new drilling.”
When Surfrider Foundation found out about the legislation they held community forums around the state to raise awareness about the bill. During the middle of their “road show” tour, the bill was defeated in the Natural Resource Committee.
“Ironically, we were in Central California giving presentations on ways to stop the bill locally. We’d like to think our forums in Southern California helped make an impact on the vote,” Sekich-Quinn said.
Despite the clean local shores, residents are keeping a close eye on developments in the Gulf and the spill’s broader implications. “The spill in the Gulf is a stark reminder that drilling is risky business — in both the ecological and economic sense,” Marty Benson, local Surfrider member and attorney said. “Ironically, our governor proposed in the 2010 budget that state parks would be funded by revenues from offshore drilling,” he said. “I support funding parks but not offshore drilling, so that puts a lot of people in a difficult position.”
Benson, who is from South Carolina, recently spoke in Wilmington, N.C., at a hearing about offshore drilling. “My specific ask is that we reduce our transportation infrastructure and Department of Defense spending and put it into education and health care, creating a more holistic approach to the issue,” he said. “From one perspective it was advantageous that the spill happened while these hearings were going on.”
The economics of the devastation are also an issue on local people’s minds. “The fishing and tourism industry for that part of the Gulf will take decades to recover. The ecological damage is incalculable at this point. I only hope they get it under control soon so the region doesn’t suffer any more environmental and economic damage,” Sekich-Quinn said. “Ecological stability and economic stability are the same thing,” Benson said.
Decreasing the expanding roadway infrastructure while increasing the public transit system is one way to alleviate the overconsumption of oil. “From a policy perspective, we just need to engage in a little bit of tough love,” Benson said.
Marsha Lindsey, an Encinitas resident and artist originally from the South, is worried about the long-term consequences of the Gulf spill. “This spill could have an impact on everyone,” she said.
“I’m so thankful that our own coastline is so clean comparatively,” she said. Lindsey is hoping to drum up support for a hair drive to make so-called “hair-booms” that would provide a bio-friendly solution to clean up efforts. “There are a lot of alternatives to dumping chemicals in the ocean to clean up the spill,” she said.
Lindsey called the spill one of the greatest environmental disasters in the country’s history but one that hasn’t received much mainstream media attention. “This impacts us all and I’m just not hearing enough information about it except for the blame game side,” she said.