Santa Barbara, Refugio Beach Oil Spill
5 July 2015
Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization Submits Written Testimony to California Senate and Assembly Committees Investigating Santa Barbara Oil Spill
To: Santa Barbara County Supervisor Janet Wolf
California Senate Select Committee on The Refugio Oil Spill
California & Assembly Natural Resources Committee
Re: Written Testimony Refugio-Failed Oil Spill Response
Dear Ms. Wolf and Hearing Co-Chairs,
The Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization (LAEO) would like to submit written testimony re the Refugio Oil Spill Response. While we were not able to attend your hearing in person, I, and several of our representatives were able to join by live stream via the web. We appreciate the time spent on this very important issue.
Since the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization (LAEO), a non-profit conservation alliance and its Science and Technology team has worked to find a fix for our broken oil spill response system.
Scores of scientists and industry leaders have since documented that the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) cleanup methods were wholly inadequate resulting in enormous harm to sea life, the seabed, the coastline, human health and the local economy. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) study on the DWH response reported that, “despite aggressive recovery and removal efforts, only around one-quarter of the oil was removed by the federally directed response.” In 2014, scientists ascertained that oil on Gulf of Alaska beaches affecting wildlife was the very same 25-year-old oil from the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill. Hundreds of kilometers from the initial site, this oil contained most of the same chemical compounds as oil sampled 11 days after the initial spill.[i] Our National Oil and Hazardous Chemical Clean up system has not changed despite failure after failure.
We do not want this outcome for California. We know you do not either. But this is the outcome we will get unless we compel the U.S. EPA, Coast Guard and Regional Response Team Nine Officials to cease perpetuating outdated and false science with ineffectual planning that employs obsolete tools in oil spill response. We are very familiar with the nature of the Unified Command system, which excludes anyone but system insiders and we were very interested in Ms. Wolf’s testimony on that subject.
As covered in our research paper, A Call for a Twenty-First-Century Solution in Oil Spill Response, we have identified National Contingency Plan system flaws (which includes the de-facto favoritism paid to lethal chemical dispersants) that encourage OSRO dispersant stockpiling and the federal agency (EPA/NRT) push for preauthorization of these chemicals.
We also assessed and identified a unique and effective spill clean up technology – Bioremediation Enzyme-Additive Agent as it is categorized on the NCP list – that eliminates any need for dispersant use while effectively remediating a spill. Had it been employed at the beginning of the Refugio spill, it would have fulfilled the Clean Water Act mandate of removing the entire spill from the environment as a scientifically predictable end point in a matter of a few weeks.[ii]
On May 26th LAEO sent a formal submission to the Federal On-Scene Coordinators (FOSCs) of the U.S. EPA and Coast Guard who were overseeing the Refugio spill to make them aware of better options for open water and shoreline clean ups. This submission contained key scientific documentation on proven and far more effective oil spill remediation solutions. No response was received. (Complete documentation sent as part of this formal request can be found at: http://protectmarinelifenow.org/knowledge-base.) We submitted a second request on June 17th, which likewise, was not replied to by the FOSCs.
Sadly, now over 40 days into this spill, we are still contending with beaches littered with oil from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles.
It appears much of what was debated at your hearing reflected the same government regulator and industry playbook used during the 2010 BP spill. But of most interest to us, was the higher awareness and recognition that rapid and effective spill response was non-existent in this cleanup, as has been the case with pipeline and other spills throughout the country for decades.
In a letter sent to you by Congresswoman Lois Capps, the important point was made that it was not only essential to investigate how the spill happened but also “the efficacy of the response”. Focusing only on safety and prevention is in fact the often-played red herring in this system. Senator Jackson has proposed legislation, SB 414, to improve oil spill response, which we applaud. LAEO has reviewed this legislation and made recommendations so as to strengthen it and address some gaps that could result in weakening our ability to effectively respond to oil spills on California coasts. Another key point is that industry contractors such as CTEH[iii] must not be used to audit or certify spill response plans and results. Only wholly independent inspectors can assure best available technology is being employed. (Please see attached SB 414 LAEO Edit document with proposed revisions highlighted and links to documentation and citations supporting those revisions.)
We are pleased to see increasing lawmaker interest in fixing spill response. But much more work needs to be done to save our oceans and waters from ruinous oil and chemical spills. Through our extensive research into this subject, we have found that, for many years, the industry and government regulators have been making faulty decisions regarding oil spill methods to be used based on antiquated and inaccurate science purveyed through a deeply flawed, EPA internal guidance document utilized as the definitive source of information.
While we are working to get this document corrected, we must keep up our intense educational efforts or this lawmaker investigation into the efficacy of the response will fall short of observing some of the most obvious absurdities:
a. LAEO’s research shows that an oil spill such as this could unquestionably have been mitigated to insignificant levels within hours, and completely cleaned up in a matter of a few weeks with virtually no shoreline damage or contamination.
b. Statistics on the capacity of skimmers used indicate that, at best, only 5% of the oil spilled in the water will have been recovered. That means potentially 15,000 or more gallons of oil would be left in California waters. The type of oil from the Refugio spill is subject to rapidly sinking; hence, this oil will be rolling up as tar balls and impacting shorelines for years unless properly addressed.[iv] There is research that suggests more advanced skimming technology may exist which can recover a far higher percentage of a spill.[v]
c. The environmental damage and deaths of hundreds of birds and marine mammals could have been completely avoided if best available technology had been used. That technology was readily available, as it is already listed on the EPA’s NCP product schedule, and the manufacturer could have had it deployed and on Refugio Beach within 24 hours in sufficient quantity to address the entire spill immediately.
d. Additionally, Plains pipeline company, the responsible party in this spill, has so far spent $96 million on an inadequate cleanup that, utilizing best technology, would have cost a total of less than $2 million for a fully complete cleanup.[vi]
In light of the information contained herein we are asking for you to consider:
- Urging Regional Response Team Nine and Area Committee members responsible for California Coastal Contingency Plans to appoint a Science and Technology Committee to work with the Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization Science and Tech Oil Spill Response Advisory Team to evaluate best-available technology for preauthorization consideration and rapid response to update California’s Contingency Plan.
- Adopt LAEO proposed revisions/amendment to SB 414 as per attached document.
- That a demonstration of Bioremediation Enzyme Additive[vii] technology be done under the supervision of OSPR on an oiled cliff face or section of Refugio that has not yet been addressed.
- Consider including LAEO’s Identification and Assessment Methods for Contingency Plans in amended legislation: http://protectmarinelifenow.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/LAEO-5yranniv-May2015OptimizingOilSpillResponseSystems.pdf [viii]
We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss our research and present further details. We are confident that this information would be highly beneficial for you in your efforts to see the Refugio spill competently addressed.[ix] We are hopeful that our shared knowledge will help you as law and policy makers to bring oil spill response into the 21st century
Diane WagenbrennerVP Operations
Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization
-Santa Barbara District Attorney
-All Members: Senate Committee on Refugio Oil Spill
-Calif. Assembly Natural Resources Committee Members
-All those who testified at the Refugio Hearing
References and Endnotes:
[i] In Mar, 2014, The Atlantic reported on the Exxon-Valdez spill, that, “Eventually more than 1,000 miles of coastline were fouled, and hundreds of thousands of animals perished… Though the oil has mostly disappeared from view, many Alaskan beaches remain polluted to this day, crude oil buried just inches below the surface.” http://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2014/03/the-exxon-valdez-oil-spill-25-years-ago-today/100703/ . Also see http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/23/opinion/holleman-exxon-valdez-anniversary/
[ii] Macondo Oil Spill Response Analysis: http://protectmarinelifenow.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/LAEO-Oil-Spill-Response-Research-Paper.pdf ; Enzyme Additive Bioremediation Fact Sheet: http://protectmarinelifenow.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Bioremediation-for-Oil-Spill-Response-May2015-Global-Education-Pgm.pdf; Efficacy Documentation-Enzyme Additive Bioremediation: https://www.changeoilspillresponse.org/response-tools.html
[iii] See Investigation Summary on CTEH document attached.
CTEH Investigation Summary
Capps_Welch Congressional Letter re BP and CTEH:
[iv] PNAS report: http://www.pnas.org/content/111/45/15906; Chemical composition report on Refugio Oil — http://danssheet.com; National Science Foundation Report: http://nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=133059&org=NSF&from=news
[v] Example other Skimmer Technology http://spilltechnology.com/library/EST_R&D_Rev2.pdf
While LAEO isn’t endorsing any particular skimmer technology, we are urging that SB 414 exclude designated types of skimming/brands (e.g. disc) until a full review and comparative analysis of all available technology is undertaken.
[vi] Cost comparative analyses and expert witnesses can provide testimony illustrating that industry/OSRO contractors profit from ineffective spill response and have no incentive for adopting less costly and more efficient spill response tools and systems. For more information email: firstname.lastname@example.org
[vii] Enzyme Additive is a category EPA designated for a type of biological agent listed on the NCP Product Schedule
[ix] As our members and supporters know, we have absolutely no financial connection with any of the technologies we recommend; we advocate strongly for them because, through the diligent research of our Science and Technology Advisory Board, we have found them to be, by far, the best methods currently on the market that efficiently clean up spills, protect the public’s health, the environment, and the marine life and wildlife, have no environmental “tradeoffs”, nor any secondary cleanup necessary (like having to remove waste to landfills).
Attachments Referred to in Testimony 5 July 2015 Letter:
Senate Bill 414 California-LAEO recommendations:
21st Century Solution Research Paper, Analysis of Macondo Oil Spill
Optimizing Oil Spill Response, Identification and Assessment for Contingency Plans
Chemical Dispersants and the Clean Water Act http://protectmarinelifenow.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/LAEO-ChemicalDispersantsexcerpt-5yranniv-Apr2015-PRINT.pdf
Cooperative Ecology, A Fix for Oil Spill Response Systems http://protectmarinelifenow.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Co-Eco-LAEOSpillResponse-exerpt-Mar2015.pdf
Bioremediation Fact Sheet Corrections, Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization,
True Data on Bioremediation Enzyme Additive Agent for Water and Shoreline Oil Spills
CTEH Investigation Summary
Capps_Welch Congressional Letter re BP and CTEH:
SUBMISSION TO FOSC REFUGIO:
MAY 26 Request to EPA/Coast Guard FOSC’s Refugio
Bioremediation EA Literature Review, King Fadh University:
Still Creeping Down the California Coast-Day 40-June 27, 2015
This past Friday several LAEO representatives sat in on a five-hour State Senate/Assembly Investigative Hearing chaired by State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson and Assemblyman Das Williams looking into the May 19th Plains pipeline oil spill. The hearing consisted of testimony from various experts across the spectrum of professionals associated with oil spills. It appears much of what was debated reflected the same government regulator and industry playbook used during the 2010 BP Spill. But of most interest to us, was the higher awareness and recognition that rapid and effective spill response was non-existent in this cleanup, as has been the case with pipeline and other spills throughout the country for decades. Contrary to the false reports delivered by environmental officials and the pipeline company at this hearing–that 94% of the oil has been cleaned up now–citizens and qualified experts stood up and presented evidence that oil was still coating their beaches all the way down to Manhattan Beach with people swimming in the water where clean ups had been reported as completed!
In a letter sent in by Congresswoman Lois Capps an important point was made that it was not only essential to investigate how the spill happened but also “the efficacy of the response”. Senator Jackson has proposed legislation to improve oil spill response and of course we have sent in our recommendations on how this can be achieved. 
We are pleased to see increasing lawmaker interest in fixing spill response. But much more work needs to be done to save our oceans and waters from ruinous oil and chemical spills. Because of the many years of carefully planted false information and inaccurate science on this subject, we must keep up our intense educational efforts or this lawmaker investigation into the efficacy of the response will fall short of observing some of the most obvious absurdities:
- LAEO’s research shows that an oil spill such as this could have been completely cleaned up in a matter of a few days with no shoreline damage or contamination. Period!
- The environmental damage and deaths of hundreds of birds and marine mammals could have been completely avoided.
- Plains pipeline company, the responsible party in this spill, has so far spent $96 million on a clean up that should have cost less than $2 million. That wasted money could be better spent to help improve the environment!
As you know, we have researched and identified spill clean up technology – Bioremediation Enzyme Additive as its called – that would have eliminated this entire spill in a matter of a few days.
Now, 40 days after the start of this spill, we are still contending with beaches littered with oil from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles. We are hoping you will write in to your representatives and/or lawmakers conducting this investigation and ask that they adopt LAEO’s proposals listed in the paper our Science and Technology Advisory Board published two years ago and available at this link: A Call for a Twenty-First Century Solution in Oil Spill Response, and tell them to contact our experts for advice on how to fix their system.
One citizen compiled a succinct perspective on why this system is corrupt and dysfunctional. She studied our educational materials and learned all about it!
We posted her letter on our website, it is worth a read!
SANTA BARBARA’S COAST COULD
HAVE BEEN SAVED
See A Citizen’s Perspective-Below
A Citizen’s Letter to the Editor
Will the Santa Barbara Oil Spill Clean-Up be Another Disaster? Far Superior Clean-Up Methods Are Being Ignored.
I checked in with the Refugio Response Joint Information Center for an update on the spill cleanup. I was told the official word, as of June 19th, 2015, is that “91% is back to normal.”
I felt the polite, helpful gentleman I spoke with sincerely believed what he was telling me. I also get the idea that many hundreds of people, gallantly working to recover the Santa Barbara area, believe they’re doing the best that can be done to bring it back.
But maybe I know too much. To start, Plains All American Pipeline, whose ruptured pipe caused the spill, is part of the Unified Command team over the Refugio clean-up. They hired the Center for Toxicology & Environmental Health LLC (CTEH) to do the toxicity testing. Were they part of the “91% is back to normal” report? If so, can we believe it?
On June 18, 2010, a New York Times website article reported, “observers of CTEH’s work (on the Gulf spill) say the firm has a vested interest in finding a clean bill of health to satisfy its corporate employer (BP Oil). . . ‘It’s essentially the fox guarding the chicken coop,’ said Nicholas Cheremisinoff, a former Exxon chemical engineer who now consults on pollution prevention… ‘There is a huge incentive for them to under-report’ the size of the spill… and ‘the same thing applies on the health and safety side’.”
http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2010/06/18/18greenwire-record-of-bps-gulf-worker- testing-firm-raises-84788.hntml?pagewanted=all. In fact, BP Oil had many billions of dollars of fines at stake, depending on the evaluation of the amount of oil spilled.
So, could “back to normal” ultimately become “out of sight, out of mind”? Because on the same June 19th as that report, the Santa Barbara Independent asked, “What happened to the 80,000 gallons (from the Refugio spill) that didn’t make it into the ocean . . .? Some of the oil was quickly scooped off . . . (or) scrubbed . . . But that accounts for just a fraction of the crude that spilled on land . . . it seeped into the bluffs’ porous soil and spread down and out between underground rocks and roots . . . officials were unsure how deep the oil went. And they don’t know if it could still slowly leak into the ocean. . .” http://www.independent.com/news/2015/jun/19/refugio-oil-spill-80000-gallon-question/
Will this spill also leave 75% of the oil and over 30,000 oil-compound-pollutants to persist for decades, similar to other U.S. oil spill cleanup statistics? “Despite aggressive recovery and removal efforts, only around one-quarter of the (BP Gulf spill) oil was removed by the federally directed response,” a Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) study reported on December 3, 2012. http://protectmarinelifenow.org/wp-content/uploads/delightful-downloads/2015/04/LAEO-Oil-Spill-Response-Research-Paper.pdf
These problems are not local. Per an Oct. 27, 2014 PNAS study, scientists found evidence of a ‘bathtub ring’ of oil from the BP spill covering more than 1,200 sq. miles of the Gulf of Mexico’s seafloor. “We also suggest that a significant quantity of oil was deposited on the ocean floor outside this area but so far has evaded detection because of its… (varied) spatial distribution…,” the scientists concluded.”
In Mar, 2014, The Atlantic reported on the Exxon-Valdez spill, that, “Eventually more than 1,000 miles of coastline were fouled, and hundreds of thousands of animals perished… Though the oil has mostly disappeared from view, many Alaskan beaches remain polluted to this day, crude oil buried just inches below the surface.” http://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2014/03/the-exxon-valdez-oil-spill-25-years-ago-today/100703/
CNN gave an even more devastating report that same month in 2014, the 25th anniversary of the Exxon-Valdez spill: “The Sound’s coastal ecosystem is permanently damaged. Thousands of gallons of Exxon Valdez oil still pollute the beaches; this oil is still toxic and still hurting the ecosystem near the shore… Some (wildlife populations) are still listed today as ‘not recovering’… The government conclusion is that ‘there appears to be no hope for recovery’.” http://www.cnn.com/2014/03/23/opinion/holleman-exxon-valdez-anniversary/
Why no hope for recovery? Why has so much oil been left behind? Why has the EPA, in collaboration with other agencies, condoned the use of the same outdated methods of containment, scooping, scraping, etc., that haven’t worked for 30 years? These methods haul away whatever toxic mess they are able to collect to landfills. This shifts the damage to other environments, later impacting our ground water.
It’s a crime that the above methods being used could allow Refugio spill damage to persist for the next 26 years and far beyond, as the government states the Exxon-Valdez spill will do, when the EPA is fully aware that a far superior, safe, proven technology is available. It is on their own Contingency Plan list of products for use in oil spill clean-up. It is labeled “Bioremediation Enzyme Additive” in their designated Category, (EA Category).
The Enzyme Additive solution assists microbes that are already naturally there in the environment to ingest and quickly fully remove the oil. The Enzyme Additive treats and converts the oil into a food source for these microorganisms with an exact enzyme formula, nutrients and other biodegradable ingredients. This biological agent can be used safely in water, on land, on sensitive habitats and on the rocky cliffs, down into the porous soil to the underground rocks and roots. It can safely clean oiled wildlife.
If the ocean portion of the spill had been addressed right away with this Enzyme Additive, there would be no tar balls, no need for manual labor wiping down rocks and no shoreline residuals remaining.
In fact this oil spill remedy has been used successfully in over 40 countries and by all five branches of the U.S. military. The US Navy has successfully used it as a first-response cleanup tool on fuel spills in the San Diego Bay with no adverse impact, while reducing its cleanup costs by 90%.
So why isn’t this remedy being used?
This question becomes even more perplexing when two visual examples of successful cleanups can be seen on the following spills:
- On Nov. 2013 in Nigeria, a 150,000 gallon spill coating sensitive mangrove forests was 100% eliminated and the environment fully restored in 29 days. Clean Up Report:http://osei.us/wp-content/uploads/OSEI-NIgeria-AGIP-Brass-Terminal-Clean-up-complete-data-set-4-14-14-.pdf
- Oil spilled on a Saudi Arabian beach for demonstration purposes shows it can be fully cleaned up: http://osei.us/archives/1135 (At 9:54 minutes, oil is poured on sand and is quickly remediated. At 5:15 minutes, oil is poured into the seawater and the Enzyme Additive breaks it down. At 8:54 minutes, Enzyme Additive quickly makes oil harmless in water)
We must ask the Refugio on-scene managers— Plains All American Pipeline, the EPA, the Coast Guard, the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife and their Office of Spill Prevention and Response— why they are ignoring the most current and successful spill clean-up science and still using methods, that by comparison, are stone-age tools.
Scores of scientists, whistle-blowers and victims have documented the deadly effects of exposure to spilled oil and/or dispersants on life, environments and economies. They’ve exposed cover-up attempts to hide that truth from us.
Let’s take to heart the following legacy of the Exxon-Valdez spill reported by Business Insider in June, 2010, “Almost Every Cleanup Worker From The 1989 Exxon Valdez Disaster Is Now Dead,” and demand there be change. http://www.businessinsider.com/warning-to-gulf-cleanup-workers-almost-every-crew-member-from-the-1989-exxon-valdez-disaster-is-now-dead-2010-6
I found much information regarding this on the Change Oil Spill Response Website of the Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization (LAEO), a non-profit environmental group which has researched and identified better technology and policy to fix our broken oil spill response system.
They submitted this real solution to the EPA and Coast Guard for the Santa Barbara spill with documentation at the 6 links from the Refugio Solutions Documentation Package at http://protectmarinelifenow.org/take-action.
AS WE UNDERSTAND IT, THE REFUGIO SPILL HAS MADE IT AS FAR DOWN AS LOS ANGELES BEACHES AND COULD SPREAD FARTHER. Let’s all of us in California work to protect our State’s future. Share this information with your Mayors, your City Councils, your County Board of Supervisors and Congress-members. Ask them the above questions. Tell them to ask those questions too, and demand Bioremediation Enzyme Additive Category technology BE ADDED TO THEIR SPILL RESPONSE TOOL KITS AND PLANS. It makes a HUGE difference to visit your representatives’ offices in person, so go, if you can.
Let’s stop the insanity of continuing to do what has not worked on oil spills for the past 30 years.
You can find your Senators and Representatives in Congress at this link:
Sincerely, Patti Nicklaus, at email@example.com, concerned California Citizen and animal advocate.
Another major part of the LAEO’s focus is to save endangered wildlife, who I believe are the most tragic victims of these toxic spills. See their work at: www.theearthorganization.org
 Information on the Oil Spill Response Bill can be found at: SB 414 at: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160SB414
 As our members and supporters know, we have absolutely no financial connection with this technology; we advocate strongly for it because it is the only method currently on the market that so efficiently cleans up spills, protecting the public’s health, the environment, and the marine life and wildlife, with no environmental “tradeoffs”, or secondary cleanup necessary like removing waste to landfills.