May 31, 2011

History 101: Save Our Shores' fight against oil drilling in 1986

Dan Haifley is a leader in ocean conservation and has worked hard for the Santa Cruz community to keep our ocean and beaches clean for years now. From 1986-1993, Dan served as Executive Director of Save Our Shores and is now the Executive Director of the O'Neil Sea Odyssey where he runs education programs for children about marine stewardship aboard the O'Neil catamaran. Dan recently wrote an editorial in the Santa Cruz Sentinel about the fight against offshore oil drilling that he was involved in with Save Our Shores back in 1986. It is a great read and really highlights our fight for ocean conservation on the Central Coast. Thanks Dan for all of your hard work!

Dan Haifley, Our Ocean Backyard: Monterey Bay Sanctuary emerged from offshore oil fight - Santa Cruz Sentinel 5/28/2011

California's beautifully complex coastline features rock outcroppings, sandy beaches, tidepools and wetlands. It is also defined by what we don't see: along much of it, there are no offshore oil platforms.
A reason for this is that a string of coastal communities was encouraged by a then little-known organization called Save Our Shores to approve laws that restricted the development of onshore facilities necessary for offshore drilling.
The local groups that campaigned to approve these measures provided evidence of a statewide movement to protect the ocean and coast. What they didn't know at the time is that the waves they created would help to persuade a U.S. president running for re-election a few years later to grant the strongest protections ever achieved. In 1992, then-President George H.W. Bush granted permanent protection to much of California's Central Coast.
Before we continue, a little history is in order.
In 1985, 82 percent of Santa Cruz City voters voted to require that any zoning changes to accommodate onshore facilities for offshore oil must be approved by a vote of the electorate, and to lead the fight against drilling on California's Central Coast. Save Our Shores, which had worked since 1978 on coastal issues including offshore oil, was tapped to take on that fight and I was hired to coordinate it.
The federal government controls the right to lease areas for drilling from 3 miles to 200 miles offshore and the state controls it from the mean high tide line to 3 miles. Local government, however, has zoning power within its own boundaries.
A strategy to deal with offshore oil by scrutinizing the onshore facilities need to operate them was developed by Gary Patton, John Laird, Mardi Wormhoudt, Kim Tschantz and others. To implement that strategy, I traveled California to promote the approval of laws similar to Santa Cruz's. Ultimately 26 cities and counties from San Diego to Humboldt approved them - most were passed overwhelming by local voters. The oil industry took notice and filed a lawsuit against the first 13 communities. With legal guidance from then-Supervisor Gary Patton and attorney Roger Beers, the local governments prevailed.
The fight against offshore oil ultimately dovetailed with then-U.S. Rep. Leon Panetta's work to establish a marine sanctuary in Monterey Bay.
The 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill had motivated Congress to approve legislation allowing the formation of marine sanctuaries, and the California Coastal Commission began to work for such status for Monterey Bay.
After his election to Congress in 1976, Panetta began work on that effort.
In 1988 he secured congressional authorization for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to begin the planning for a marine sanctuary at Monterey Bay.
Panetta had obtained a yearly freeze on funds for offshore leasing until 1986, when that effort failed by one vote. With the coastline suddenly vulnerable, marine sanctuary status provided an opportunity for permanent protection.
To seize it, the Environmental Working Group was formed in 1988 to promote the largest boundary and strongest protections. Representing Save Our Shores, I served as its co-chair, along with Rachel Saunders of the Center for Marine Conservation, now called the Ocean Conservancy.

My next column: How Monterey Bay became the center of the largest marine sanctuary in the continental United States. Dan Haifley is executive director of O'Neill Sea Odyssey. He can be reached at

This is the projected area for oil rigs in Santa Cruz, can you imagine if our coastline was littered with oil rigs?

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