Saturday, March 29, 2008

Absurdity of Scale

Look at this!

This image provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department ...

This image provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department ...

The Firestone Vineyard stretchs toward rolling hills in the ...
Photos are all AP photos from a slide show here.

There's an amazing string of AP articles about an oil and gas company in Santa Barbara County. The article by Noaki Schwartz is great, laying out a long series of ironies and disasters. Kudos!

Here are some highlights:

  • Of 21 refineries in California, Greka Oil & Gas Inc. is the fourth-smallest producer, but the state's biggest inland oil polluter, according to state officials.
  • Over the past nine years, the Santa Barbara County Fire Department has responded at least 400 times to oil spills and gas leaks at Greka, resulting in fines, citations, federal and local prosecutions and investigations by the Environmental Protection Agency and state Fish and Game.
  • From 1999 to 2007, the Santa Barbara Air Pollution Control District inspected Greka facilities 855 times and issued 298 violations. During that period, 203 Greka spills threatened or polluted state waters 20 times, according to Fish and Game.
  • In January announced an environmental initiative dubbed Greka Green. But just a day later, it was hit with an 8,400-gallon spill.
The idyllic vineyard is the Firestone Vineyard, which was established by The Firestone family in 1972. For some reason I can't seem to figure out how big it is. But there's lot's of history and pretty pictures on their website.

Greka leases land from the vineyard.
Again, how much sense does it take? Oil. Food Source. Ugh.
Do people really not think that oil is dangerous? I just keep finding myself amazed at the decisions people will make for money.

I think it's interesting to note that the Firestone's sold the vineyard and much of the land last year. Another quote from the AP story:

"Brooks Firestone, whose family leases land to Greka, was one of two members of the county Board of Supervisors who blocked an emergency hearing on Greka in December. He said the staff needed more time to prepare, and warned board members not to become hysterical.

"To me, a huge event involving oil was the Kuwaiti oil fields that were fired by the Iraqi army in the first Gulf War, the 1969 oil spill in the channel, the Valdez tanker and the Normandy tanker," Firestone said at the time. "What is the meaning of this incident?"

Days later, on Jan. 5, Greka spilled more than 190,000 gallons of oil and contaminated water on the land it leases from the Firestone estate. Since that spill, Firestone has withdrawn from deciding matters related to Greka.

Firestone, an heir to the tire fortune, said it would be too difficult to calculate how much income he receives from Greka. On political disclosure forms, he said he owns only 9 percent of the vineyard land on which the Greka installation sits. Officials have to own at least 10 percent of a business to disclose income from it."

I'm amazed by this story.
At it's absurdity of scale, for one thing -- this little company respectively and all the power they have -- all the damage.
It's got everything -- right down to irony and government corruption.
I wonder about all the little companies in this country.
I wonder what will we drink.
When we have polluted the wine
and the rain and the rivers.

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