A pro-oil drilling group says natural oil seeps will continue to leak thousands of gallons of oil into the ocean every day unless more drilling operations are allowed to relieve subterranean oil pressure.
Stop Oil Seeps California, a Santa Barbara non-profit dedicated to oil seep awareness, released a blog post Monday in response to the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Santa Barbara Oil Spill.
Spokeswoman Alice Green says the organization has been unfairly “tarred and feathered,” by the Santa Barbara community for daring to discuss offshore oil production in a positive light.
Co-founder Lad Handelman says SOS California gets no money from oil companies. Mr. Handelman is a board member of Aqueos Corporation, a subsea service provider for oil and gas companies.
“We have a really low overhead,” chuckled Mr. Handelman who continued that all SOS funding comes from donations from members or board members.
He claims that oil seeps though are no laughing matter. According to UCSB research cited by SOS, roughly 10,000 gallons of crude oil seep into the ocean from Point Conception to Ventura every day.
While oil has been seeping consistently from cracks in the ocean floor for thousands of years, Mr. Handelman says an earthquake could open those cracks causing a catastrophic gush.
He added the methane gas released along with the oil causes more air pollution than all the motor vehicles in the county.
“If we don’t do something we’re condemning our children to suffer the same water and air pollution we’ve had now for years,” said Mr. Handelman.
His solution is to reduce the undersea oil pressure by extracting it before it can seep out into the environment and use the tax revenue generated to fund renewable energy research.
“We all want the same thing. Progress towards renewable energy sources, but in the meantime fossil fuels can help us get there.”
He said oil drilling technology has come a long way since the Santa Barbara Oil Spill and said only 842 barrels of oil have spilled into Santa Barbara’s coastal waters since compared to 1,820,000 barrels released from natural seeps.
In March 2018 a natural seep event oiled 18 Grebe birds near Ventura Harbor.
According to the International Bird Rescue Research Center, the birds were in the area for their winter migration. Chemical testing confirmed the oil in that case was from natural seep.
Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network’s Director of Animal Care Elaine Ibarra says experienced animal care professionals can spot the differences between natural oil seep and oil leaking from drilling operations, that is less than what would be considered an oil spill.
A chemical test is needed to confirm.
She says different oil products have different characteristics but, “any oil product is dangerous.”
Seeping crude oil has sticky, shiny characteristics that can be especially harmful for species of birds that fly over water without returning to land for an extended period.
“These kinds of birds are usually not going to land unless there is something seriously wrong,” said Ms. Ibarra who explained that they show up on beaches because the oil interferes with their ability to maintain its core temperature in the water.
SOS officials argue reducing oil seeps through drilling will save hundreds of birds each year and benefit other marine life affected by polluted waters.
“We at SOS prefer to see our feathered friends be just that…feathered…even if some think tar and feathering is the suitable fate for organizations such as ours,” said Ms. Green in a statement Ms. Ibarra estimated the network treated around 300 seep-oiled birds in 2017.