On May 19, 2015, a rupture in an onshore pipeline transporting oil from drilling platforms in the Santa Barbara Channel to onshore refineries spilled 120,000 gallons of crude oil west of Santa Barbara, California. The spill closed two state beaches for months and killed nearly 100 marine mammals and more than 200 birds.
About three years later, South Carolina state Sen. Chip Campsen was quoted in a Washington Post story, saying, “For many Republicans, Trump’s offshore drilling plan and beaches don’t mix. People need to understand that if you are going to have offshore drilling, you have to industrialize a huge portion of your coast.”
For Elizabeth Ridlington, senior policy analyst for our research partner Frontier Group, who lives in California, the Santa Barbara spill came to mind, and inspired her next report for Environment America Research & Policy Center, “Offshore Drilling, Onshore Damage: Broken Pipelines, Dirty Refineries and the Pollution Impacts of Energy Infrastructure.” Elizabeth studied the potential environmental damages of industrial infrastructure created for offshore drilling. She found that pipelines running from rigs to inland processing plants could threaten estuary water quality, increase the likelihood of oil spills, and pollute drinking water and land. Environment America Research & Policy Center released the report nationwide.
Advocates for Environment America and our state affiliates then used the report in states up and down the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to call for bans or restrictions of drilling off their shores. In states such as Florida, North Carolina and Massachusetts, it earned media attention, and was released just in time for the Virginia General Assembly to pass a ban of offshore drilling.