CEC Board Emeritus Paul Relis, who helped start the grassroots environmental movement with the Community Environmental Council after the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, spoke out in the aftermath of the massive Refugio Oil Spill, caused by a ruptured underground line owned by Plains All American Pipeline.
“People have been asking me how the Refugio Oil Spill compares to the 1969 Santa Barbara spill. Really, any spill of this magnitude is a tragedy, and the location on the Gaviota Coast could not be worse.
But one major difference is that 45 years ago, we had no idea how to break our addiction to oil. Now we do. Now we have both the policy tools and the technology to make this transition. Those are two powerful drivers.
Listen, I’ve had front-line experience working in – and with — California government for more than 20 years, and I’ve never seen the dynamics or commitment that I’m seeing today to make renewable energy such a core part of the state’s future – it’s kind of breathtaking. California is without question a global leader when it comes to renewable energy, and state energy policies are moving us even further in that direction. Remember, the Governor announced in January that he is directing the state to reduce petroleum demand by 50% by 2030. That’s huge.
What was a pipe dream for us in 1969 – a real alternative to our dependence on oil — is now within reach. We are at a pivotal moment in history, and the Refugio Oil Spill is a grim reminder of the necessity of moving renewable energy to the forefront. This could be the final catalyst to motivate the Santa Barbara citizenry to tap its environmental legacy and move away from oil now. With opportunities like Community Choice Energy, the Santa Barbara region could be demanding that 100% of our electricity come from wind and solar. How amazing would that be? And with electric vehicles changing the transportation sector, I can now envision us entering a post-oil era.”
That’s the message I want the next generations to hear. Yes, it’s maddening that we are still repeating the same lessons of 45 years ago. But now we actually have a road out. I say we take it.”
To learn more about the 1969 oil spill that sparked the national environmental movement, including the creation of CEC, download this chapter from Paul’s recent publication, Out of the Wasteland: Stories from the Environmental Frontier.
You can also find out more about the history of CEC here.