November 25, 2022
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Central Coast economy depends on politicians, Plains making it right


Workers donned protective gear to clean up the Refugio oil spill.

Workers donned protective gear to clean up the Refugio oil spill.

When it comes to oil and politics, the conventional wisdom has been that Central Coast politicians can’t overplay their hands in expressing outrage over environmental issues.

That conventional wisdom is about to get a major test. Already a parade of elected officials has toured the damage wrought by the May 19 oil spill that made national headlines. The first public hearings on the Refugio oil spill are now set for June 26, with additional sessions likely to follow.

Ventura County will now hold public hearings on the future of its oil industry — at least as far as new permits go. And four representatives have asked Congress to similarly hold hearings on the spill and how Plains All American was allowed to operate a badly corroded section of pipe under the nose of federal inspectors.

Meanwhile, a civil lawsuit and criminal investigation are working their way through the legal process. And claims are piling up for Plains, which has said in Securities and Exchange Commission filings that it can’t quantify the cost of the cleanup or the outcome of potential civil or criminal penalties, although it expects insurance to cover most of the cost.

The more the public can learn about the causes of the spill and ways to prevent future environmental catastrophes the better off we’ll be. But if the purpose of the hearings is political grandstanding against the oil industry, that’s not particularly helpful for two main reasons.

First, the dirty little secret about California and particularly the Central Coast is that oil and gas extraction provides important tax revenue that at this moment is helping to fund woefully underfunded pensions and infrastructure.

Second, hotels, restaurants and tourism-related activities on the South Coast have suffered from the perception that the oil spill is far more widespread than it actually is. That is a perception that’s hurting the entire region, including many poor and working class families.

Plains deserves to have the legal book thrown at it for screwing up and dumping oil into the ocean. But as the cleanup proceeds, it will be necessary for Plains and politicians to make it right for the tourism industry and the rest of the economy—even while investigations, litigation and settlements happen on a parallel track.

Happiest place on earth vandalized

An unusual flurry of vandalism has struck San Luis Obispo.

Nearly a dozen establishments, including banks and the Apple store had expensive windows blown out by metal objects that appear to be ball bearings.

The balls were presumably projected by a slingshot and the damage at the Apple store alone is estimated at $20,000.

Coming at the end of a busy and triumphant year for San Luis Obispo, which celebrates itself as the happiest place on earth, the vandalism spree is a reminder that it doesn’t take much to disrupt, at least, temporarily, a civil society.

This looks more like an exaggerated prank than organized civil unrest but we encourage anyone with information about the incident to contact the police at (805) 781-7317.