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Summerland oil leaks come to the surface during the Santa Barbara International Film Festival

SUMMERLAND, Calif. - The leaking oil wells in the nearshore waters and on land in and around Summerland have been an environmental concern for years.

Now they are at the center of a special documentary in the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

Greetings from Summerland The Birthplace of Offshore Oil details drilling history dating back more than 100 years.

The filmmakers Harry Rabin and Joey Szalkiewicz said they have been tracking down old video of abandoned wells and the efforts to cap them for years.

Rabin is a board member with Heal the Ocean, an environmental group calling attention to issues affecting a clean ocean.

The film also shows a researcher, Ira Leifer, who has built a special piece of equipment that detects the amount of gas coming from leaking wells or natural sources and where that gas is going. He is seen driving it close to shore and in the hills taking readings.

The film also talks about impacts on the global environment because of climate change from the gases.

Congressman Salud Carbajal previewed a short version of the movie Monday and described it saying it made his, "eyes pop out." He has been following the issue and seeking remedies for years, dating back to his roll as an assistant to then-County Supervisor Naomi Schwartz more than a decade ago.

"This is an urgent level that's festered far too long and we need to address it yesterday both at state level and obviously the federal level." He said the government needs to fully understand the magnitude of the problem, especially beyond the Summerland waters. Carbajal said the issue is a contributing factor to climate change, and not dealing with it will make the urgent issue worse.

"The environment, to me, is always number one and the complete story encompasses everything," said Rabin. "It is not just a problem in Summerland, it is across the U.S., and globally so that perked our interest. "

Rabin has been shooting video of the oil leaks for years, and that involves different days, under different weather conditions. The Summerland community has also been active and calls in with information about the leaks, especially when they are very apparent or have a smell that can be detected into the nearby homes.

In recent years, the State of California has allocated about $2-million a year for recapping and cleanup efforts. That funding is in jeopardy of running out, with many well heads in disrepair and other unfinished work.

The movie will be shows Tuesday at 8:40 p.m. and Friday at 5:40 p.m. in the Metro 4 Theatre in downtown.

For more information go to : SBIFF

Article Topic Follows: Santa Barbara - South County
environment and energy
Heal the Ocean
local politics
natural gas
oil wells
Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara international film festival

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John Palminteri

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