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    HomeCommunitySanta Barbara HistoryGet Oil Out Spawned by Locals in Response to 1969 Blowout Disaster

    Get Oil Out Spawned by Locals in Response to 1969 Blowout Disaster

    By Ann Haley, Daily Nexus, January 31, 1975

    Between the fog and damp of San Francisco and the smog-ridden congestion of Los Angeles lies the city of Santa Barbara. There are mountains, ocean, good weather, and good diving in the channel. There are also oil platforms in that channel. Six years ago [1969] this week, one of those oil platforms started to leak, creating a gigantic oil slick that blackened the beaches. A new facet of Santa Barbara appeared then — Get Oil Out (GOO), the granddaddy organization of the ecology movement.

    GOO was founded by three men: Marvin Stuart, James (Bud) Bottoms, and Alvin Weingand. According to Stuart, GOO was born “the day of the spill.”

    “We had been dreading the moment for years,” he said. “I got a phone call at approximately 9 a.m. the morning of Jan. 29, 1969. I immediately saw Bud (Bottoms) and said, ‘We’ve got to get the oil out.'”

    “A lot of people who were aware of the beauty of Santa Barbara didn’t want their horizon disrupted,” explained Bottoms. “Our psyches were disrupted by the platforms. About a year before the spill, we had a very successful referendum against an onshore oil facility in Carpinteria. That was the first step. Then one year later, I was at the News-Press office and Dick Smith told me there was a spill out there.”

    Stuart and Bottoms then called former state senator and leader of the 1967 referendum against the Carpinteria facility, Alvin Weingand. They told Weingand that their new organization needed a president, and that he was it.

    “I tore into Marvin (Stuart’s) office,” recalled Weingand, “saying that this is monstrous and we’ve got to do something.”

    “We know people in the community who didn’t want the area spoiled and it was a matter of calling them and letting them know we were going to fight,” said Stuart. “The three members overnight became three hundred. Within one year, we had received one-quarter of a million letters in support.”

    GOO’s goal then, as now, is “just get the existing and any future platforms out,” said Stuart.

    Meanwhile, GOO had called a mass protest meeting in front of city hall, and founder Bottoms had gone back to the News-Press to publicize the new group.

    “We stuck our necks out first and all of a sudden had an organization. It was such a grass roots thing,” Bottoms explained.

    “The strange thing was that no one understood what the fuss was about,” Stuart remembered. The oil from the leaking platform didn’t hit the beaches until three or four days after the spill.

    “We called attention to the contrast. We didn’t need dead and dying birds on the beaches,” he continued. “In early February of 1969, I was in Washington D.C. and had a meeting with Congressman Teague, who said he would institute legislation to get the oil companies to swap the platforms with oil reserves at Elk Hills.”

    GOO Growth

    In the course of the last six years, GOO has grown to a membership of 2,000 and Santa Barbara has become recognized as the place where the ecology movement began.

    “We have exactly the same number of platforms as when we started,” said Stuart. “No new platforms have gone in and we’re fighting tooth and nail on this Exxon thing.” Exxon has received permission to build an oil platform 5.5 miles off the coast and is requesting an oil treatment plant in Las Flores Canyon, 10 miles west of Isla Vista.

    “We’re an anomaly for the oil companies,” he said. “They thought we would go away.”

    GOO has far from gone away. The membership peak, according to GOO Executive Vice President Ellen Sidenberg, was 2,500 members in 1970. “Then the energy crisis hit us and people dropped their memberships,” she said, explaining that people became concerned about oil production and gas for their cars during the fuel crisis.

    GOO is currently involved in two legal suits to prevent a total of 53 new wells on 5 platforms in the channel. Other GOO activities including favoring changes in the state lands commission, seeing that Exxon doesn’t get to the production stage of their new platform, and opposition to Exxon’s Las Flores project. GOO also has an ongoing educational facility. Three UCSB Community Affairs Board students are currently doing research projects for GOO, and last quarter an Environmental Studies department intern was assigned to GOO.

    “This organization spearheaded the environmental drive in the country,” said Weingand.

    Why did Santa Barbara kick off the ecology movement?

    “Because the people care so much about their environment,” offered Bottoms. “The people here are aware people. They care about the quality of life that exists here.”

    “The South Coast community is an extraordinarily sophisticated one in terms of the environment,” said current GOO President Francis Sarguis. “It’s such an unusual place to live in terms of the setting. A lot of the people who have come to Santa Barbara tend to be more concerned with the community and the environment.

    “I think we have a very sophisticated citizenry in Santa Barbara and the South Coast area,” he continued. “We have had in the past some very good public officials and leading citizens. We had a number of concerned citizens who were led into forming GOO.”

    What do Santa Barbarans think of GOO?

    “Their feelings toward GOO are much gentler than several years ago,” responded Sidenberg. “We’re not a bunch of kooks — we’re concerned with the community.

    “We show that a group of citizens who are energetic and want to put up a good fight could,” said Weingand.

    As for the future of the channel, it “should not be used for oil,” stated Bottoms. “It is a food resource. It is a most unusual place and should not be destroyed for oil.”

    GOO originators James Bottoms (left) and Marvin Stuart. (Al Pena/Daily Nexus photo)
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