By Owen Bailey
There is nothing anti-business about insisting on clean water.
Our tri-county region can reasonably be considered the birthplace of our country’s modern environmental movement. After the tragic blowout from offshore oil Platform A in January 1969, the Santa Barbara Channel became the poster child for irresponsible environmental practices and the devastation that can result from inadequate industry regulation. Watching the great Santa Barbara Oil Spill unfold in real time spurred a national conversation, reevaluating environmental protection and setting a path for the creation of what have become cornerstone and essential environmental laws at both the federal and state levels. These laws include the National Environmental Policy Act, Endangered Species Act, California Coastal Protection Act and the Clean Water Act.
The Environmental Defense Center was also founded as a response to the oil spill, and our mission has always been to work within this discipline of environmental law to ensure our tri-county area maintains a clean and healthy environment. Over almost four decades, EDC has worked in the public interest to ensure that our communities and visitors can enjoy the beautiful views and open space, clean air and water that make this region such a prized place to live work and play.
In a May 29, 2015 article, the Pacific Coast Business Times reported that tourism brings billions of dollars of revenue across our tri-counties. We must be clear, our viewsheds and open space, our clean water and beaches and the plentiful outdoor recreation opportunities that rely on such attributes deserve credit for bringing these dollars into our local communities. Ensuring we do not kill this golden goose is not anti-business. It is in fact, just the opposite.
In his April 22 column, Henry Dubroff looks at General Magnaplate, a global corporation with operations in several states — Texas, New Jersey and it seems, for only a short while longer, California. In October 2015, EDC sent General Magnaplate a notice letter alleging violations of the Clean Water Act related to the facility’s storm water discharges into the Santa Clara River. This letter was based upon General Magnaplate’s own sampling data from the past five years, demonstrating unacceptable amounts of iron, zinc, aluminum, and other pollutants running off their facility.
No one is denying that complying with federal laws protecting our environment and communities requires businesses large and small to put resources to bear and EDC is sympathetic to these challenges. But every day hundreds, if not thousands, of small and large businesses in California profitably operate while complying with the storm water rules underlying EDC’s notice letter. In fact, in our decades-long history, EDC has negotiated settlements with many businesses that continue to thrive in this area.
Since the 1969 oil spill, progress has been made cleaning our creeks and coastline, working for clean air and water, putting processes in place to ensure protection for treasured open space and endangered species. But we must remain constantly vigilant. While we are sorry to see any business leave this area we are so fortunate to call home, we must be careful to stand up constantly for vulnerable wildlife and communities, and the clean and healthy environment that brought so many of us here in the first place.
• Owen Bailey is executive director of the Environmental Defense Center in Santa Barbara.