Mon – 1/14: 750 new oil wells in north SB county! Go to the hearing, write a comment, or do BOTH!

Photo: from video on steam injection enhanced oil recovery.

Some may say “This isn’t our county…not our problem.”
That’s not how resistance works.
We are indivisibly linked, not just with our own town or county, but with the issues that threaten our neighbors, our state and our nation. Help make California inhospitable for the toxic oil drilling industry, not just in Cat Canyon, but everywhere.

Three companies are proposing to drill over 750 new oil wells in the northern part of Santa Barbara County. The draft Enviromental Impact Report (EIR) for one of these companies – Aera – was released in December and is now open for public comment. There are two ways we can submit a comment:

Action #1 -Submit a comment at a public hearing on Jan. 17th.

On January 17 at 6PM, there will be a public hearing where anyone can come and submit a comment on the draft EIR. Note – all comments must be made to be referring to the draft EIR itself. Here are some links to help.

Carpool info: Use this form to sign up to attend and will help arrange carpools, share talking points, and make sure you’re prepped and ready-to-go.

*Note: There are two locations:
Location #1: The actual meeting will be at the Betteravia Government Center, Board of Supervisors’ Hearing Room, 511 East Lakeside Parkway, Santa Maria
Location #2: A video-connected meeting will be at the Engineering Building and Planning Commission Hearing Room, 123 E. Anapamu Street

Action #2 –  Written Public Comment Open until January 28th 2019

A) Submit our own via email. We’ll  find more information about the draft EIR, the project, and how to write a public comment here:

  1. Email your comments to Kathryn Lehr:
  2. THEN – Call and email the Santa Barbara County Planning Commissioners. 
    1) Send your email to all 5 Planning Commissioners via: David Villalobos, Planning Board Assistant Supervisor,
    2) Contact them individually via phone. Name and phone for each of the 5 Planning Commissioners can be found on this web page:
  3. THEN – Call and email the Santa Barbara Board of County Supervisors.
    1) Send your email to all 5 Supervisors via the Clerk of the Board at:
    2) Contact your own Supervisor: Name, email and phone for each of the 5 Supervisors can be found on this web page:

Sample Message


Subject: Reject Cat Canyon Oil proposals
 (copy and paste – try to use your own words)
I urge you to reject the upcoming proposals for 760+ new wells from Aera, ERG, and PetroRock. All three projects would use dirty and carbon-intensive thermally enhanced oil production methods to extract heavy crude oil in Cat Canyon. Drilling deeper and deeper through the Santa Maria Groundwater Basin is extremely risky and threatens the County’s precious groundwater resources. These projects would also dramatically increase tanker truck traffic and accidents, result in 24-hour light and noise pollution, and degrade air quality, impacting our public health and safety. These projects would alter our rural quality of life for decades to come and are too risky to approve.

Action #3 – Learn more. Watch this video & read this great summary from Los Padres Sierra Club.

Not traditional oil wells
Companies are seeking permission to heat water to 500 degrees and inject high pressure steam into the ground to loosen up heavy oil. These “enhanced oil recovery wells” require a vast amount of energy and water. Heating the steam will use more gas than all of Santa Barbara County’s homes, said Davis.
Each of the three companies will need from 7 to 8 million gallons of fresh water said Alicia Roessler, Staff Attorney for the Environmental Defense Center. Roessler said the project would be among the top 10 percent of carbon-intensive oil projects in the world due to the energy-intensive thermal extraction methods used to drill for the heavy Cat Canyon oil.
The project relies on climate-damaging natural gas to generate the steam to loosen up oil.
Drinking water at risk
The drinking water supply for Santa Maria, the County’s largest city, sits right underneath the oil fields. Smaller communities like Sisquoc and Garey, including the Benjamin Foxen Elementary School, rely entirely on local groundwater.
Roessler said during 2011-2015, ERG was responsible for 21 oil spills that released over 20,000 gallons of crude, said Roessler. A significant amount of waste water would be produced and the most economical way to dispose it would be underground. There is a very high density of disposal wells in this area, Roessler said, pointing out that ERG and other companies were illegally injecting the toxic wastewater into the aquifer.
Projects will also involve acidizing, injecting several toxic chemicals and acids, such as hydrofluoric acid, a chemical weapon component into the ground, said Davis. ERG predicts 18 spills in 10 year, she said.
“If we don’t advocate for our own water and own health, nobody else is going to,” said Rebecca August, President of Safe Energy Now, an organization supporting fossil-free energy in Northern Santa Barbara County.
Air pollution and trucks traffic
The projects would also impact air quality generating high particulate matter, Roessler said. Heavy dust would be produced during construction and continue during 24-hour-a-day operations. Wells can also emit hydrogen sulfide, a toxic gas into the air, during drilling.
The projects would also generate significant truck traffic. “I’m concerned about how many hundreds of tanker trucks will be traveling on these local roads,” said Roessler, noting that 61 percent of all fatal heavy truck accidents occur on rural roads.
Loss of nature and personal health risk
Besides the noise, water and air impacts, many of the speakers spoke of the destruction of native habitat. According to Aera Energy, its project will require that 3 million cubic feet of earth will be moved and up to 1,500 mature oak trees will be killed.
Dr. Kevin Beckman, a former Santa Maria Marian Hospital emergency room physician, said that the chemicals used in the process of enhanced drilling disrupt cellular membranes, affect hormone receptors and cause DNA mutations. Known toxic chemicals include Benzene, Toluene, Xylene and Radioactive isotopes. “There is no safe level of Benzene.”
Polluting industries choose low-income communities
 “The reason why we had this here is because your children and your grandchildren will be most affected by these project,” said Food and Water Watch’s Senior Organizer Ana Rosa Rizo-Centino. “Corporations seem to always pick low-income communities to create their most harmful projects because they think they can buy us off, and I’m sorry but my health, my child’s health is priceless.”
Letting your voice be heard
The three oil companies are in various phases of the application process: Santa Barbara County is expected to decide on the first application from bankrupt ERG Energy this winter. The draft Environmental Impact Report for a second applicant, Aera Energy, owned by Exxon and Shell, will be released by the County before the end of the year.  A third company PetroRock, which owns a company known for its toxic waste dump, is expected to follow this Spring.
“I would encourage everyone to become engaged, and to become involved, said Roessler. “You have a voice. The decision-makers will listen.”
What could this look like?

MORE interesting resources


2 thoughts on “Mon – 1/14: 750 new oil wells in north SB county! Go to the hearing, write a comment, or do BOTH!

  1. Stop the total rape & pillage of the land, air & water. This land is our children’s inheritance. They have a right to clean air, water & safe from earthquakes due to fracking. Stop immediately.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s