Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Watch Live

Oil spill threatens Southern California beaches

 October 8, 2021 at 1:58 PM PDT

Speaker 1: (00:01)

This week on round table surf city USA shut down. One of California's iconic beaches is cleaning up after a major oil spill. How worried should San Diegans be about the pollution ending up here? The labor movement is having a moment. One local union member tells us why those who make movies, TV, and commercials are ready to walk off the job. And we dive into all things Halloween in San Diego with our own queen of scream, Beth Mondo, I'm Christina Kim, and this is KPBS round table

Speaker 2: (00:36)


Speaker 3: (00:47)

And we can moralize and talk about the good old days. And we can talk about how important these rigs have been to the prosperity of this country in the middle-class. But at the end of the day, this is about the stale air of normalcy versus the fresh air progress. Right now, fossil fuel jobs literally are outnumbered five to one versus clean energy jobs in the state of California, outnumbered five to one today, this does not have to be part of our future

Speaker 1: (01:15)

That's governor Gavin Newsome reacting to an ecological crisis, less than a hundred miles from San Diego's coast. Last Friday night, it became apparent that something was wrong. When Noah and others reported an oil sheen off orange county, the following days brought us images of birds covered in oil, dead fish. And what looks like a toxic stew advancing on a community best known as surf city USA. No one's going into that water now. And this week on round table, we start with one of the many reporters on the story. Jacob Margolis, who covers the environment for public media station. KPCC in Los Angeles. Hey Jacob. Hi. If you can set the scene for us, what have you heard from those who have been close to the spill this week?

Speaker 4: (01:56)

Yeah, so I actually heard from a resident today that, uh, back on Friday, she was smelling just absolutely terrible gas oil smells in an alert, went out around that last Friday. And since then, it's just been, you know, oil has been coming more and more oil has been coming to shore. Uh, the smell has been pretty intense. We've seen oil seep into the very ecologically sensitive areas there. And you know, a lot of beaches are closed down. Um, in response there are some 800, uh, people, uh, contractors starting to clean everything up, but it is an absolute, uh, it's, it's not a good site. It's not wonderful.

Speaker 1: (02:36)

The focus right now is on the Huntington beach wetlands, an area where conservationists have worked for years to protect and restore. Why is this such an important ecosystem in our area?

Speaker 4: (02:47)

Yeah. So over the last century, California's lost about 90% of its wetlands. So there have been some concerted efforts to bring them back. The Talbert marsh in particular, which is in the Huntington, which has been impacted. Uh, there has been a very concerted effort to bring it back since the 1980s and wetlands serve a lot of purposes. Uh, you know, they're very ecologically, diverse areas. They act as homes to many native species. They also sequester carbon from the atmosphere. They act as coastal kind of flood and erosion control as well. Like they might just look like kind of swampy areas, but they're actually really important. And so to have oil seep into that area and really threaten everything from cyanobacteria that, uh, fixed nitrogen from the atmosphere and feed the plants there to, uh, the oil smothering the plants to, you know, smothering seabirds, like the snowy plover, a water, foul it again. It's, it's not a great sight to see.

Speaker 1: (03:45)

It's just devastating. And I'm sure for all the conservationists who have been working there since, as you said, the eighties just devastating to see all that work threatened. What, how are they reacting? Not just emotionally, but practically, like what can they do at this time to try and mediate the damage that's been done?

Speaker 4: (04:02)

Yeah. So the immediate reaction was to shut off flow to the wetlands so that no more oil got in after that. Uh, they've been just trying to start to kind of clean stuff up. Uh, there's going to be scientists making their way out there to test the wetlands, see how deep the oil has seeped into the actual soil there. Um, and to really, they're really in the process of trying to account for all the damage right now, while also mitigating further damage by preventing water from coming in. The problem is I was told if they do not allow some water in, um, and just block it off completely, eventually parts of the wetland go hypoxic. Uh, they, they lose oxygen and then the organisms in those particular areas can, can die if no fresh water comes in,

Speaker 1: (04:49)

You covered the latest update Thursday afternoon, what are first responders and investigators saying about just how much oil made it into the water

Speaker 4: (04:57)

And they've been operating off and they really mobilized in full force, uh, off the assumption that there is going to be a, roughly 130,000 gallons of oil that spilled into the water. Now they've been working on calculating the exact amount and it looks like there's a possibility that that amount will actually be far less than anticipated, which is good news. It doesn't mean we won't have some serious impacts, especially to wetlands, but, um, you know, we're going to have to wait to see exactly how much oil is collected and how these calculations continue to change going forward.

Speaker 1: (05:32)

The indigo county says it's following the flow of oil in case some of it arrives here. What have you heard from those on the scene about how this pollution is likely to travel?

Speaker 4: (05:41)

Yeah. Oil is still showing up on beaches and it is flowing south with the current and the weather. And it has started to show up in San Diego. Um, so it will become more and more of a problem there as well. Uh, the officials are tracking it, but again, we're going to be dealing with oil on these beaches. For some time we heard an estimate on Thursday, kind of thrown out there by some orange county officials that it might be weeks if not months before some of the beaches are open. So, uh, you know, they, they've got to wait for all the oil either to come in or be collected first and then be able to move forward. So people need to be patient.

Speaker 1: (06:14)

Do we know much about how this actually happened?

Speaker 4: (06:17)

There's a lot of speculation right now. What we know is that a 4,000 foot portion of the 16 inch steel concrete, uh, covered oil pipe was dragged some 105 feet. They compared it to like, uh, like a string on a bow and it should, should not have been that way. And there's a 13 inch crack in it. Uh, there's been a lot of speculation that it was a ship's anchor, that, that dragged it. But, um, anything beyond that, you know, they've been in, we're waiting, the press is waiting for investigators to get there and pop up with their own PIO public information officer. So we can start to ask a lot of questions about, um, what they're facing.

Speaker 1: (07:00)

As we heard from governor Gavin, Newsome, California is already a leader when it comes to pivoting away from fossil fuels, but these offshore rigs still exist. Is it a reasonable expectation that sooner, rather than later, this sort of dangerous work in our ocean is going to get phased out?

Speaker 4: (07:16)

I mean, I'd be surprised. I mean, I don't necessarily agree with the idea that we're a leader in pivoting from fossil fuels. Um, you know, California will ban new fracking permits as of 2024 though. Fracking counts for only 2% of oil extraction here. And to phase out gas and oil, California wants to buy like 20, 45. That's an awfully long time considering we need to end our reliance on fossil fuels. Um, California's a seventh biggest us crude oil producer and one of the biggest users of oil. And when it comes to oil rigs, we haven't issued any new state permits since the Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969, no new federal permits since the 1980s have been issued. So, you know, we have these oil platforms that are going to continue to sit out there. They are still profitable. Uh, I would be really surprised if at anytime soon. I mean, I think it'd be, probably be good as fossil fuels are, are not good. I'd be surprised if any time soon we ended our reliance and now Diane Feinstein did propose a bill to ban offshore drilling off the west coast. But I think we're a lot further away from separating ourselves from fossil fuels and people really

Speaker 1: (08:20)

I've been talking with Jacob Margolis environment reporter for KPCC. Thank you so much, Jacob. Thank you. Whether it's protections for gig workers or renters losing eviction protections here on round table, we've been paying attention to the soaring cost of living and by extension, how we value workers. Part of the reason for this decline is the weakening of organized labor, but from Kellogg factory workers to Kaiser nurses, unions are having a moment either already on the picket lines or on the verge of doing so. Now the people who work behind the scenes to bring us TV shows, movies, and commercials that got a lot of us through the pandemic are ready to do the same. I artsy is the union for the lighting crews, audio techs, and stage hands that keep the Hollywood rock and roll and convention machine rolling. And Richard [inaudible] is the business rep for the union's San Diego chapter. He joins me now to tell us what this is all about and what it means for local San Diego production workers. Welcome Richard.

Speaker 5: (09:22)

Hi Christina. Thanks for having me. I artsy

Speaker 1: (09:24)

Stands for the international Alliance of theatrical stage employees who qualifies to be part of IFC and really what kind of work do members do here in San Diego?

Speaker 5: (09:34)

Yeah, so we represent 81 crafts alone in film and television, along with stagehands, which do theater, rigors, film, television, like I said, and rock and roll. And then a big chunk of our work here in San Diego is actually convention work for through audio visual technicians. Got it.

Speaker 1: (09:51)

I think when people outside of the industry hear things like Hollywood or film production or anything of this nature, they get a little dazzled and it can seem like very lucrative work to be in that industry. But as we've been seeing and hearing from workers that want a better contract, these jobs entailed long hours and the pay isn't always high. What would you say are the key one or two major issues that you feel need to be addressed by the studios?

Speaker 5: (10:16)

Yeah, so the two big ones are obviously wages to keep up with cost of living. You know, you got some people who are in the low twenties to the mid twenties, those need to those need to come up. And the other one is just a worker safety. And one of the big issues that's being pushed is what we call turnaround, which is the time that you enjoy your work call for the day. And the time you start again, currently it's at eight hours. We're asking for more time because you need more time to drive home, do what you gotta do, get enough rest and be able to get back to work the following day, because most of these people are doing, you know, 14, 15, 16 hour days, consecutively weeks on end.

Speaker 1: (10:52)

Sometimes Hollywood studios choose to film on location. Then you top gun sequel as an example of that here in San Diego, but often studios will just send their own people to travel rather than rely on local talent. Is the union also trying to secure more local hires for these types of productions?

Speaker 5: (11:09)

Yeah, so the union's done a lot, especially here in California at the state level. Back in 2014, we passed a law that allowed, uh, productions to come back and get an incentive, which brought a lot of work back. We have the issue of our proximity being close to LA and with our film commission closing back in 2014, we're kind of like the backyard for LA where they think they can just come down. And so we're working with local politicians right now to help push legislation for local higher incentive. For those productions

Speaker 1: (11:36)

Nazi recently voted to authorize a potential strike. And that's actually a huge deal. The last time the union strike was in 1945 in what was called Hollywood's bloody Friday. How close are we to that actually happening? And again, what would that mean for people in San Diego?

Speaker 5: (11:53)

Yeah. So no one wants to go on strike the people, making movies and television shows want to create new programming for consumers to watch not walk picket lines. Uh, unfortunately, you know, we've been given very little choice by employers who refuse to consider our needs. So it's look, no one wants it to happen. It may happen if it does, obviously it'll slow production down and we'll pull halt production here for location shooting in San Diego.

Speaker 1: (12:18)

Earlier. I mentioned some of the other union actions such as the Kellogg strike happening across the country. Is there a bit of solidarity or morale boosting when you see other unions taking direct action?

Speaker 5: (12:29)

Yeah, I mean, I gotta tell you the labor movements, uh, been on a roll and there's been tons of solidarity through a bunch of other unions locally here, you know, uh, through the labor council we're in support with FCIU, who's out there at UCF medical fighting for their residents and interns, as well as, uh, UFC w who's out there fighting for CVS workers. And in turn, all those people have showed out to our rallies that are going on, which we're re we're pushing, uh, to get a first contract with an employer called Encore who represents V technicians in 24 different hotel properties. So there's a ton of solid theory going on here locally in San Diego. And I think you're going to see more of it in the months to come. So,

Speaker 1: (13:07)

So what's really the next steps that we expect to see, you know, in the next coming months as it comes to this negotiation.

Speaker 5: (13:14)

So the next steps as of now is the balls in the court or the producers, you know, we did the strike authorization, we've given them our proposal. And so we're waiting to hear back from them. There is no set date as far as like, you know, if we don't hear back by this time, the goal is to continue negotiations, but show them that we're serious about striking.

Speaker 1: (13:31)

What are they not budging on? What's the sticking point for the studios?

Speaker 5: (13:35)

Uh, so again, it's the two biggest ones, right? It's the increase in wages, which we feel that especially through what is considered new media, which is now the main media, which is through the streaming services, uh, to get the wages up to what is that like network rates and then the turnaround time, which we think is very important for the safety of our members and for the safety of the job site, for people who aren't getting enough rest and to help relieve some of that fatigue and have a better work-life.

Speaker 1: (14:01)

You know, you mentioned that a lot of the work here is driven by conventions and rock concerts. We did just go through this pandemic that really shuttered a lot of those events and opportunities. How is the production business coming back here in San Diego?

Speaker 5: (14:17)

So the production business is starting to pick up the film and television side is slow coming back. We get a lot of commercials and stuff like that. And a lot of that has to do with the fact that we don't really have a strong infrastructure here as far as studio space, but the conventions and the rock and roll and all that stuff is starting to come back,

Speaker 1: (14:34)

Worker morale doing so, you know, like I mentioned, they just went through a stretch where maybe work wasn't as available as it has been in the past. Now you say we're building back up to having opportunities, but now again, we have this kind of labor negotiation, this labor contract how's the morale. So the is

Speaker 5: (14:51)

Actually very good. And I think that the, uh, the vote authorization of the 98% shows that, right. It shows that people aren't a good spot to where they feel like they can actually dig in and fight for what they think is right. You know, getting through the pandemic was, was very tough, but we're able to get back at it. And, you know, we have a lot of support from a lot of other unions who are backing us. And so we feel confident that we can push forward and, and, and give what we think is, you know, basically

Speaker 1: (15:18)

I've been talking with Richard Desborough from the San Diego chapter of the international Alliance of theatrical stage employees, better known as I artsy. Thank you, Richard.

Speaker 5: (15:27)

Thank you very much

Speaker 1: (15:30)

Now for a bit of fun, because we all deserve it. It's October. And that means Halloween is around the corner. Spirit. Halloween stores have been in business for a few weeks. Decorations are already up in the neighborhoods and after COVID-19 forces to shut our doors to trick or treaters last year, we're finally in a spot where a lot more people are able to celebrate safely and responsibly. And here at KPBS, I know there's someone who's extra excited for the festivities to be back KPBS arts and culture reporter Beth Armando. Can't wait.

Speaker 6: (16:03)

This is the kind of thing I usually do for Halloween. And the reason I do it is for this, oh yes. The joyful sound of children leaving my house on Halloween.

Speaker 7: (16:19)

It is a happy site and you know what? They will remember that they it's a good, it's a good memory. I remember my first haunted house I ever went to, like it was yesterday and I was so scared, but I got out and got back in line. I wanted to do it again and again and again, and again,

Speaker 1: (16:38)

That's part of Beth's story this week for evening edition, talking with Greg, [inaudible] the mind behind the haunted hotel now in mission valley, there's so much going on. So let's check in with Beth about Halloween happenings all around San Diego. Hey Beth, it's your season.

Speaker 8: (16:55)

Yes, it is. And there's a lot that is happening now that wasn't happening last year,

Speaker 1: (17:00)

Let's start with the haunted hotel, which I have to tell you is very scary. So give us a little bit of a lay of the land. Why the new location, why did it move from downtown to mission valley and what can visitors expect this year?

Speaker 8: (17:13)

It's been in mission valley before it basically got pushed out of the broker building downtown because it was renovated and they no longer had access to that basement that they used to use. So now they have 10,000 square feet in mission valley and they have three mazes operating there. And then they also have the haunted trail, which is still in Balboa park, which I think is the most bang for your buck for the hot.

Speaker 1: (17:37)

So you mentioned that haunted walk in Balboa park, but what are some other options here in San Diego for folks looking for a few scares or just to get into that Halloween spirit? Sure. Well, one

Speaker 8: (17:47)

Thing that I really is polo Fest and this is from right out loud and it's a performance piece, but the thing that is really great, I don't know if anybody has ever seen it, but Travis Ray Wilson does an amazing Edgar Allen Poe. And it will give you like goosebumps and chills to hear him reading some of the post stuff. So that's a performance piece that is going to be at the end of October, October 29th, 30th and 31st. There's an organization called Midsummer scream, which is based in LA. And they put

Speaker 1: (18:17)

Out a great newsletter that highlights all the kinds of haunts and Halloween themed activities. And if you sign up for that, you can get information. And I just found out about Temecula terror. I've never been there. I don't know what it is. It's up north from here, but apparently it's the tale of Otis Hatcher's murder house. So I am very interested to find out what that's all about. And that's Thursdays through Sundays in October in Temecula. Got it. How about anything less scary? Let's say you've got some kiddos who maybe don't need to be terrified, but still want a bit of that. Spookiness, anything out there for the kids,

Speaker 8: (18:55)

The terror claims it has something that's more family friendly, but again, I haven't checked it out yet, but you know, there are some usual suspects for Halloween. You can check out things like Halloween horror nights at universal studios, six flags, fright Fest and not scary farm. And they have a little more diversity in terms of what they're offering. And you know, there's a lot of like kind of pumpkin patch sort of places where you can bring your kids.

Speaker 1: (19:20)

I won't lie. I think I'm more of the pumpkin patch, variety myself. I, the haunted houses really scare me, but it does seem like Halloween is more and more for adults and kids. These days, USA today reported this month that Americans are expected to spend $10 billion on this holiday. What is it about Halloween that's grabbing people's attention and where is this money going? Well, I think

Speaker 8: (19:42)

There's a number of things for one thing. Halloween is not a religious holiday. It's not like Christmas or Easter. And it's something that really families can enjoy together in a weird way. I mean, you can go out trick or treating with your kids, or you can create a home haunt or you can go to costume parties. But the thing is, it probably has something for everyone and it involves craft and creativity. And it's just something that I think a lot of people enjoy because as an adult, you can remember what it was like to be a kid. You can involve your kids. If you don't have kids, you can do adult theme parties or you can do home haunts. So I think it's something that's just very appealing. And also it's something that you don't have to do with your family. You know, Thanksgiving and Christmas is a very kind of family centered thing.

Speaker 8: (20:31)

But with Halloween, it's a lot about just doing things with your friends and with the horror community. If that's what you're a part of. And you know, the money is going to a lot of home decoration into costumes. I think one of the things that's really fueled the home haunt praise is that ever since we've had the internet and YouTube and people are sharing the things they can do, people have a much easier time figuring out ways to make haunted houses and to make crazy costumes. And so I think there's a real level of inspiration and creativity out there.

Speaker 1: (21:04)

It's also gotta be going to the candy though, right? It's a big time for candy sellers. I'm

Speaker 8: (21:08)

Sure it's going to there in part two,

Speaker 1: (21:12)

You can see that that's what I'm most excited about. I'm like where's the candy. Well, or is there any other Halloween theme stories that you're working on for KPBS?

Speaker 8: (21:20)

Well, I've done some stories about some LA haunts or not necessarily haunts. And two things that I adore up there are kind of immersive theater. There's delusion, and there's urban death, zombie Jos, urban death. And what these are, are these kind of immersive theater experiences. So delusion allows you to be in this haunted house for up to five hours. They have a performance piece that's there that engages you in trying to figure out a mystery. And I went to one of these before, and it is absolutely fabulous. And the amount of creativity and imagination on display is fabulous. And the thing about both of these is they're not about jump scares. It's more about creating a sense of dread, and that is much more terrifying on a certain level and zombie Joe's urban death is little vignettes, blackout vignette. Some are only a few seconds long.

Speaker 8: (22:15)

Some are a few minutes, but it's things like you're sitting in pitch black in a tiny, tiny theater. And you suddenly hear scurrying sounds all over the theater and you don't know what it is or where it is, and it'll pop up right behind you. Or it can be a very like reality-based horror where you see somebody up in a window and you hear the sound of children playing, and then you see them bring out a gun. Now that's real world horror. And so it's a really interesting combination of different levels of scares and different types of war. And I just think both of those display such artistry and creativity, it's totally worth the drive up to LA.

Speaker 1: (22:55)

I have to ask. I mean, I got goosebumps when you're just explaining that to me, like real chills, just real fear. What is it about the psychology of fear? Why do people like to get scared? Especially around this time of year,

Speaker 8: (23:11)

There's a lot of different types of people. So I went to McKamey Manor, which was an extreme hot, and the people who go to that are the kind of people who are doing extreme sports or military guys back from overseas, who need that adrenaline rush. And so there's a certain type of people who really want to feel that sense of like I'm really alive. And, and I want to have that adrenaline from fear and there's other people I think who want to embrace that darkness on a certain level. And there's a certain level of safety. You, when you go to a haunt or you go to a movie or you go to a theater somewhere in your brain, you do know that you're in a safe space, even though you're being scared. And I think everybody loves that feeling. I mean, you know, there's a reason Scooby-Doo was popular with kids. It gave you a very distinct formula that you could expect every single week. And you knew that they would solve the crime and solve the mystery, but kids loved it. And I think that's kind of at the root of what's going on is it's the sense that we want to be scared. We want to go and embrace something dark, but we don't want to embrace something too dark or too scary. And the arts or haunts kind of give us that realm to play with that.

Speaker 1: (24:30)

All right, Beth, before you go, will you tell us what you're planning to be for Halloween? I have a feeling that you do costumes the right way. Unlike me, who is last minute every year,

Speaker 8: (24:41)

Well, I have to confess the past few years I've been putting on elaborate home haunts. And since I'm the only one in my house who knows where the breaker box is and all the extension cords, I have been dressing up less and focusing on producing a haunt more. So this year we're going to do kind of a haunted carnival in my driveway. It's not a full on production like I've done in past years because we don't know if COVID is going to rear its ugly head and make us cancel. Or if maybe people just aren't feeling comfortable enough to go out trick or treating. So we're going to have some sort of fun haunted carnival out in my front yard, and it may involve some demented clowns.

Speaker 1: (25:22)

I've been talking with Beth echo, Amando arts and culture reporter for KPBS. Thank you, Beth, for sharing this spooky season with us.

Speaker 8: (25:29)

Thank you.

Speaker 1: (25:32)

Thank you for tuning in to this week's edition of KPBS round table. And thank you to my guests, Jacob Margolis from KPCC Richard Desborough from my artsy local 1 22 and KPBS arts and culture reporter Beth Mondo. If you missed any part of our show, you can listen any time on the KPBS round table podcast. I'm Christina Kim, join us next week on round table.

Speaker 2: (25:55)


Workers in protective suits clean the contaminated beach after an oil spill in Huntington Beach, Calif., on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. The Coast Guard received the first report of a possible oil spill off the Southern California coast more than 12 hours before a company reported a major leak in its pipeline and a cleanup effort was launched, records show.
Ringo H.W. Chiu / Associated Press
FR170512 AP
Workers in protective suits clean the contaminated beach after an oil spill in Huntington Beach, Calif., on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. The Coast Guard received the first report of a possible oil spill off the Southern California coast more than 12 hours before a company reported a major leak in its pipeline and a cleanup effort was launched, records show.
A large oil spill off the coast of Huntington Beach is already proving damaging to sensitive ecosystems, entertainment production workers say they're ready to strike, and a roundup of local Halloween events and attractions returning after COVID-19 forced cancellations last year.

A large oil spill off the coast of Huntington Beach is already proving damaging to sensitive ecosystems, entertainment production workers say they're ready to strike, and a roundup of local Halloween events and attractions returning after COVID-19 forced cancellations last year. KPBS race and equity reporter Cristina Kim hosts. Guests include Jacob Margolis from KPCC, Richard Disbrow from IATSE Local 122, and KPBS arts and culture reporter Beth Accomando.