Our History

In 1969, a devastating oil spill at the Union Oil corporation’s Platform A in the Santa Barbara Channel brought unprecedented national focus to the inherent dangers of irresponsible natural resource exploitation.  The passionate, grassroots response to the catastrophe by communities in our region added significant momentum to the emergence of the modern environmental movement, which in turn catalyzed the promulgation of a wave of new local, state and federal laws to protect our scarce natural resources and fragile environment. 

Oil erupts from a drilling blowout at Platform A, Santa Barbara Channel, 1969 Spilled oil coating the shoreline at Santa Barbara’s Ledbetter Beach, 1969
Oil erupts from a drilling blowout at Platform A, Santa Barbara Channel, 1969 Spilled oil coating the shoreline at Santa Barbara’s Ledbetter Beach, 1969

By the mid-1970’s, local visionaries and activists realized that if the promise of environmental protection underlying this web of new laws was to be fulfilled, legal specialists on par with those being hired by polluters and developers had to be mustered to work on behalf of the public interest.

San Luis Obispo County coastline
near San Simeon.

In 1977, the Environmental Defense Center was founded to meet this need, to serve as the public’s dedicated advocate for a healthy, thriving, productive natural environment in the Tri-County region.

Since its founding, EDC has provided public education, advocacy, organizing, and legal services to non-profit organizations dedicated to environmental quality and human health; EDC works for and with these groups to ensure that existing environmental laws are enforced, and that our extraordinary local environment is protected and restored. 

Today, it's clearer than ever that defending the open spaces, watersheds, wildlife and coastline that make our local environment so special requires global awareness in addition to local action.  EDC will carry on our time-honored tradition of public education, advocacy and rigorous legal action to protect and restore our local environment.  At the same time, planetary crises like climate change, species extinction, sea-level rise and ocean acidification are worsening, with little regard for our region’s human-imposed boundaries.  Accordingly, EDC will also continue to pioneer new, innovative responses to these profound challenges, to realize solutions with significant local impact as well as contribute to state, national and international efforts to halt these profound problems.

Learn more about EDC’s current cases and projects to protect the local environment.
Explore our Case History for a summary of more than three decades of victories for the local environment and the public interest.






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