I hate to disagree with my stalwart friends at Heal the Bay, but I believe they should be opposing a renewal of the Chevron lease to keep offloading billions of gallons of crude oil in Santa Monica Bay.
Mark Gold’s op-ed piece in today’s Los Angeles Times concedes the fight against Chevron, seeking more fees and mitigation instead. If Heal the Bay will not lead a fight against oil tankers in the Bay, who will?
Chevron hopes to obtain a renewal on their lease today from a compliant State Lands Commission made up two outgoing members (Gov. Schwarzenegger and Lt. Gov. Maldonaldo) and one incumbent (Controller Chiang).
There should have been maximum pressure to put off the hearing in light of November’s election results which changed the balance of the commission in a progressive direction.
Mark Gold is surely right that tankers will not be leaving the Bay “anytime soon.” That seems even more assured since no one is raising the demand.
This is the year of the great Gulf oil spill, a time when environmentalists and the general public could be motivated again to fight for our coastline. The opportunity was missed.
Heal the Bay and our elected coastal representatives should be battling Chevron and educating the public instead of accepting the presence of the tankers here. How Chevron has managed for so many years to silently manipulate regional environmental politics is beyond me.
It is fine to demand higher fees or a shorter lease extension than the thirty years Chevron wants. But the first question is one of purpose and principle: whether allowing any tankers is consistent with healing the bay, or whether the tankers put the bay at risk of an inevitable spill.
In summary, I think Heal the Bay should have mobilized all this year against the Chevron lease extension, should have been urging a delay until the new commission was seated, and demanded the planned redirection of those hundreds of accidents waiting to happen (i.e. 350 tankers per year) away from Santa Monica Bay.