Know what makes big, evil corporations happy? Watching environmentalists scratch each other’s eyes out. Exhibit A: The coastal-drilling flap in Santa Barbara.

The basic story is this: California’s State Lands Commission has just nixed a deal that would have allowed a Texas oil company to drill off the Santa Barbara coast. It would have been the first such drilling approved in the state since the late 1960s. The twist? Anti-oil activists had convinced the oil company to agree to shut down its four offshore drilling platforms by 2022, close a couple of processing plants, and give the county $1.5 million for low-emission buses (the hell?) — all in exchange for fresh, juicy oil.

Gentlemen, start your pissing match!

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Approving the plan, said Lt. Gov. John Garamendi of the lands commission, would have been dangerous — amounting to “a message heard very, very clearly by those who call for ‘drill, baby, drill.'”

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But activists who worked on the deal say it was the only way to ensure closure of the platforms, which are normally leased indefinitely: “This is an endgame scenario and we’ve always been looking for one,” Abe Powell, president of Get Oil Out!, told the Los Angeles Times. “We’ve been trying to do this for four decades.”

In perhaps the most telling comment of all — a comment that seems to have been excised from the Times story, though it still appears in a Google News search — Powell called the lands commission’s decision “a PR stunt: ‘We can out-environment the environmentalists.'”

Somewhere an oilman is chuckling.

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