Santa Barbara City Councilman Das Williams, running in a tough campaign for the Democratic nomination in the 35th Assembly District, issued a press release today calling for a moratorium on offshore drilling. Under ordinary circumstances, a Santa Barbara politician calling for an oil-drilling moratorium would be about as newsworthy as a Las Vegas politician speaking out against a proposal to ban casino gambling. But these aren't ordinary circumstances.
It's evident that Williams, in the wake of the ongoing Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, finds himself on the wrong side, politically, of the great debate in Santa Barbara over the proposed Tranquillon Ridge drilling project. To shorten and simplify a long story, Williams supports a deal struck between the PXP oil company and Santa Barbara environmental groups that would allow PXP to drill into state waters from its existing federal platform in exchange for promising to shut down all its drilling activities in 14 years. His opponent, coastal advocate Susan Jordan, has led the opposition to the PXP proposal.
Given the horror of the widening oil spill in the Gulf, don't expect Democratic voters in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties to have much sympathy for anything having to do with offshore oil drilling these days. They are not likely to take the time to understand the complexities and nuances of the proposed PXP deal, which Williams and other supporters back because they believe it will hasten the eventual end of drilling in the Santa Barbara Channel.
It didn't take long for Jordan to respond to Williams' press release. She called it a "desperate ploy" on the part of her opponent. "It's unclear to me," Jordan said, "how Das can call for a moratorium on new offshore oil leasing while he continues to support the PXP deal."