Oil Spill History

Source: National Geographic, February 1920

The Santa Barbara Channel is rich in petroleum, which has been mined here for over 100 years. The Channel was home to the first offshore oil well in Summerland in 1896. The first platform, Hazel, was erected in the Channel in 1958 two miles offshore of Summerland in 100 feet of water. Platform A was erected in September 1968, and on January 28, 1969, experienced an uncontrolled blowout which lasted for eight days and spilled 100,000 barrels of crude oil over the course of several months, impacting over forty miles of coastline. This catastrophe was the catalyst for the emergence of an active environmental movement in the Santa Barbara area and what many cite as the birth of the modern environmental movement in the United States.

Source: LA Times

Despite increased regulation and oversight, 60 major oil spills occurred in California from 1986 to 2014. Another tragic oil spill blackened our shores when the Plains All American Pipeline ruptured on May 19, 2015, spilling over 140,000 gallons of heavy crude oil onto the pristine Gaviota Coast, just west of Refugio State Beach, including at least 21,000 gallons into the Santa Barbara Channel. Click here for more information.

Santa Barbara Channelkeeper works to protect our coast from oil spills by advocating for stronger regulations, working with government agencies to improve oil spill prevention and response, reviewing discharge permits and monitoring reports for existing facilities, and opposing proposals that would expand oil drilling in the Santa Barbara Channel and its watersheds and present unmitigable risks to the environment.