Oil Spill Flows Into June Primary - NBC Bay Area

Oil Spill Flows Into June Primary

Gulf Coast dreads oil spill's creep toward shores



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    Oil booms that were placed in preparation of the looming oil spill from last week's collapse and oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon oil rig are strewn along the shoreline by choppy seas in Port Eads, La. on Thursday, April 29, 2010. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

    In politics, you never know when the emergence of an unexpected issue will turn an election on its head. 

    That's exactly what's happened with the tragic oil spill off the Louisiana coast.  The disaster is not only sending 200,000 gallons per day into some of the nation's most important fishing and wildlife areas but has become a huge point of division for California's gubernatorial and U.S. races.

    Domestic oil production translates into jobs and badly needed tax revenues. 

    So it shouldn't be a surprise that with California facing a budget deficit of $20 billion over the next 14 months, some political candidates have been arguing strenuously for drilling off the California coast. 

    Gulf Coast Oil Spill: Ecological disaster in the making

    [BAY] Gulf Coast Oil Spill:  Ecological disaster in the making
    NBC Bay Area's Rob Mayeda discusses revised estimates of oil spilling into the Gulf of Mexico now believed to be closer to 200,000 gallons per day. At its current pace the Gulf of Mexico oil spill may be approaching nearly two million gallons and due to a wind pattern change will likely start heading to the Gulf Coast in the next few days. For reference, the Cosco Busan 2007 spill involved more than 50,000 gallons of bunker fuel. The Exxon Valdez disaster involved nearly 10.8 million gallons of crude that still fouls the Alaskan shoreline today (est. 26,000 gallons impacting the shoreline as of 2007). Here's a repair & oil recovery update from NOAA on efforts in the Gulf of Mexico: Workers finished fabricating the containment chamber portion of the collection dome that will be deployed to the sea floor to collect oil as it escapes from the well. Work will now begin on the piping system that brings the oil to the surface for collection; this method has never been tried at this depth before. The first rig to be used for drilling a relief or cut-off well is on site and should begin drilling approximately ½ a mile from the well head on Friday. The relief well will not be complete for several months. Responders are still figuring out new ways to use Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) to try to trigger the blowout preventer (BOP), a series of valves that sits at the well head. These efforts will continue concurrent with the collection dome and relief well(s). Good weather today allowed for both skimming operations and aggressive aerial application of dispersants - over 50,000 gallons of dispersant have been applied to the surface oil in the last two days. Patches of surface oil were captured with fire-retardant boom and ignited (in situ burn). Current NOAA efforts are focused on: gathering more information about the spill, planning for open water and shoreline remediation, and readying for environmental assessment and response. Natural resource damage assessment (NRDA) activities are now underway. * Winds are forecast to become strong (20+ kts) and blow from the southeast starting tomorrow and continuing through the weekend, which will continue to push surface oil towards shore * NOAA oil-spill trajectory analyses indicate that oil continues to move towards shore. * 100,000’ of oil-containment booms (or floating barriers) have been deployed as a precaution to protect sensitive areas in the Louisiana area. * The effects of oil on sensitive habitats and shorelines in four states (LA, MS, AL, and FL) are being evaluated should oil from the incident make landfall in appreciable quantities * NOAA’s Assessment and Restoration Division is evaluating concerns about potential injuries of oil and dispersants to fishes, human use of fisheries, marine mammals, turtles, and sensitive resources * Baseline aerial surveys to assess marine life were conducted today with personnel from NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), these will continue as needed
    (Published Thursday, April 29, 2010)

    Until now.

    Not all have taken the same approach. 

    In fact, there is a chasm between Democrats and most Republicans.  For example, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown has a long record of opposing offshore oil drilling; Republican opponents Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner favor the activity. 

    Santa Barbara 1969: California's Own Oil Rig Disaster

    [BAY] Santa Barbara 1969: California's Own Oil Rig Disaster
    From NBC Bay Area's Rob Mayeda - This slideshow shows the last major oil rig disaster that occurred nearly 40 years ago off the California coastline. As the oil spill disaster worsens in the Gulf of Mexico, Californians may recall the last time a major oil rig accident occurred that fouled our own coast for many years. On January 29, 1969 a blowout occurred on Union Oil Co. oil rig some six miles off the coast of Summerland, CA. Similar to the Deepwater Horizon explosion, the 1969 accident involved a natural gas blowout from a well nearly 3,500 ft below the ocean floor.
    (Published Friday, April 30, 2010)

    Regarding the U.S. Senate race, Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer, who chairs the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee, has steadfastly opposed offshore drilling even in the face of President Obama's recent conversion. 

    On the Republican side, Tom Campbell has come out against offshore oil drilling, but opponents Carly Fiorina and Chuck Devore have embraced drilling for a variety of reasons that include jobs, energy independence and tax revenues.  Until now.

    What happens from this point forward may have significant impacts on the futures of all these candidates and others. 

    If voters are looking for a way to distinguish the candidates of from one another on the questions of energy and environment, the Louisiana oil spill may provide such a measuring stick. 

    As for some of the candidates who have taken pro offshore drilling positions to this point, let the posturing and spinning begin!