Mon – 1/28: Reminder – TODAY is the last day to write a comment on 750 new oil wells up the road.

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. (See maps at the bottom for future installation fights. One is probably close to you or your water source.)

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 open for public comment until 5:00 this afternoon.

Action #1 –  Write a Public Comment TODAY, until 5:00 pm.

Anyone can submit a comment on the draft EIR directly to Kathryn Lehr:  or through Note – all comments must be made to be referring to the draft EIR itself. Here are some links to help.

Comment examples…
(copy and paste – try to use your own words)

Sample Message: 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.

Sample Message: I urge you to reject the upcoming proposals for 760+ new wells from Aera, ERG, and PetroRock because…

  • Air quality standards will be impacted and degraded for North County residents by the oil drilling construction and operation.
  • Risk of catastrophic spill either through operational or seismic events will potentially cause significant impacts to groundwater, biological resources and plant habitats.
  • The drinking water supply for Santa Maria sits underneath the proposed oil fields. Smaller communities like Sisquoc and Garey, including the Benjamin Foxen Elementary School, rely entirely on local groundwater
  • The oil drilling, using the technique called cyclic steam injection,  requires a vast amount of natural gas and millions of gallons of fresh water to generate the steam to loosen up oil.

Action #2 – Educational –  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?

Action #3 – Educational – Check out this map on “open” drilling leases.

Link here to interactive map.

“In 2018, the Trump Administration reignited a proposal to allow drilling and fracking across 1.6 million acres of federal public land and mineral rights in Santa Barbara, Ventura, San Luis Obispo, Kern, and neighboring counties.

Many of the areas that may be open for oil leasing are along the boundaries of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, the Los Padres, Sequoia, and Inyo National Forests, the Carrizo Plain, Giant Sequoia, and Cesar E. Chavez National Monuments, several designated wilderness areas, national wildlife refuges, state parks, city and county parks, private nature reserves, and other conservation lands. Many — but not all — of these lands are identified on this map, particularly those that are in the vicinity of areas that could be opened for drilling and fracking..

Large area map

central ca leases

Here’s up to Lompoc.


Closer to home… (The big areas are our local naval bases)


naval base drilling

MORE interesting resources



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