year ago, through our former organization, DANS, we provided
modeling, analysis, correlations and background on the oil industry in the
immediate aftermath of the Refugio Spill. (From DANS SHEET 1, one of multiple models supplied)
is one of the worst oil spills in Santa Barbara history. Therefore,
we, now EcoAlert, prepared this review for what we knew then and what
actions we recommended. This could impact some of the indictments
revealed this week and perhaps expand the criminal investigation to
hold all responsible parties accountable.
after the spill we asked about the locations and timelines of the 5
Plains employees who reportedly worked out of EXXONMobil's Las
Flores Canyon Facility. We recommended that each of the workers
involved provide signed affidavits as to their whereabouts and
actions. We emphasized that all
correspondence including emails, telephone logs and faxes by the
operator in the first 24 hrs. be included in the body of evidence in
case criminal action is eventually pursued. We provided an article
with, time line
from the available information. This went out as
a news release on July 7th
knew the names and whereabouts of all of their employees during the
first few hours of the spill incident. We further claimed that they
knew the condition of their little ten miles of pipe. They surveyed
it in 2012 and again in 2015, and they made numerous repairs and
external inspections. We know it does
take months to pull up these records on a 10-mile stretch of their
18,000 mile pipeline network. So, if they failed to release this
information voluntarily, they should have been subpoenaed."
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also questioned EXXONMobil's role in creating and responding to the
pressure anomalies in the Plains Line 901 pipeline located only a
short distance from their temporary storage tanks at the oil
treatment center. We pointed out that Plains owned only ten miles of
pipeline in the Refugio area, the rest of pipeline upstream from the
spill is owned by EXXONMobil, who also controlled the offshore
platforms where the oil originated.
we criticized the function of the Unified Command in providing
explanations and public relations for Plains actions which might have
been criminal. We pointed this out at the time. This has been borne
out by the 46 count indictment against Plains and their Environmental
and Regulatory Compliance officer.
year ago we recommended alternatives to the way spills and other
similar disasters be handled. We were right and strongly suggest our
proposal be adopted.
we expressed concern for the health of clean-up workers and
recommended a list of names and contacts for everyone who was
involved with clean-up or remediation be obtained.
has been done about this. At the time, we sent information on the
symptoms of petroleum poisoning to the Santa Barbara County Medical
Society, asking they distribute the information, by email, to their
members. The information supplied was based on the BP Gulf Spill and
supplied by Science Corp. It was prepared by Michael
R. Harbut, MD ,Professor,
Clinical Medicine Director, Environmental Cancer Initiative, Chief,
Center for Occupational & Environmental Medicine. Petroleum
poisoning follows patterns. We wanted local physicians to know what
to look for.
we recommended 21st
century technologies (like drones and
modeling) to monitor and track the initial stages of the spill
dispersal. We had supplied some of these for the first hours after
the Refugio Spill.
of these recommendations have been implemented so far, but it is not
yet too late. The Attorney General can still subpoena all
communications between Plains and EXXONMobil in the region within 24
hours of the spill in the region. The Unified Command can be
pressured to release all of its monitoring and modeling data of the
spill and its associated air and water pollution dispersal. The
health department still needs to collect medical histories on all
cleanup workers who are potential victims.
the entire spill response bureaucracy needs to be updated with the
latest technologies and modernized with geospatial real-time
assessment and decision making. Grounds existed for criminal
indictments immediately after the spill. Essential upgrades and
improvements for all of their facilities, including refineries, are
long over due, as we have witnessed in California and across our
country. (Graph from our article
emphasize, ExxonMobil should also be charged.
best way to protect innocent people and minimize the environmental
impacts on the ecosystem is to ensure those who ignore the obligation
to carry out maintenance and deliberately but people and the
environment at risk are held accountable to the full extend of the
law, paying reparations which make the victims whole.
Melinda Pillsbury-Foster is the author of GREED: The NeoConning of America and A Tour of Old Yosemite. The former is a novel about the lives of the NeoCons with a strong autobiographical component. The latter is a non-fiction book about her father (more...