Op-Ed: Don’t Trash the Gaviota Coast
By Gaviota Coast Conservancy
The Gaviota Coast is a nationally significant open space area with a defining rural character. Industrial facilities, including offshore oil rigs, onshore oil processing plants, and regional landfills, are incompatible with the rural Gaviota Coast. The single biggest threat to the Gaviota Coast today is the County’s trash processing plant proposed at the Tajiguas Landfill. The County approved the project last year, but relied on an incorrect boundary line for the coastal zone.
Since landfills are not allowed in the coastal zone, the County is trying to revise and re-approve the project. The County has proposed to expand the Tajiguas Landfill into the adjacent Baron Ranch and site the anaerobic digester on the adjoining ranch. This action literally crosses the line of acceptability, symbolizing further degradation of the Gaviota Coast’s open space lands.
The Tajiguas Resource Recovery Project (TRRP) involves $120M of trash processing machines housed in two Costco-sized buildings, one on top of the Tajiguas Landfill and the other on Baron Ranch. Interest on proposed County bonds total at least $80M, for a total project cost of at least $200M. Residential trash rates are estimated to increase by 50% over the next decade to pay for the TRRP and the coastal zone blunder; some estimate the rate increases will be much higher. The Goleta City Council will hold a hearing on September 5 to hear from the public whether to raise trash rates by over 17%, in large part to pay for the TRRP. Most significantly, the TRRP will squander the potential to reduce greenhouse gases through carbon farming (a practice referenced in the Paris Climate Agreement that sequesters atmospheric carbon in the soil).
State law will effectively ban disposal of organic waste to landfills in a few years. This organic waste (kitchen and food scraps from grocery stores, schools, hotels and restaurants) is a highly valuable input for the creation of high quality compost that can be used in “carbon farming” to sequester carbon into the soil and increase local agricultural productivity. The TRRP would instead process the organic waste in an anaerobic digester, extracting a trivial portion of the carbon as methane that would be burned to generate electricity and the carbon returned to the atmosphere.
The TRRP’s “digestate” cannot be made into high quality compost, and is unsuitable for use on food crops. Carbon farming yields years of carbon sequestration benefits, versus a one-time minor reduction in the type of carbon emitted to the atmosphere. In proposing the TRRP, the County rejected viable alternatives that would have less cost, less impacts, and move towards Zero Waste goals that many other local governments have adopted throughout the Country. We can do better.
The first hearing on the revised project will be on August 30 at the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission. Speak out for Gaviota and against expanded industrialization of our Gaviota Coast.
Check the GCC website for information on this hearing and how to help protect our precious Gaviota Coast, and tell your elected officials and candidates: Don’t Trash the Gaviota Coast!!