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Press Room

Read EDC’s recent and historical press releases, editorials, and reports.

ExxonMobil Oil Trucking Plan Jeopardized by Refinery Shutdown, County Staff Opposition to Using Dangerous Route 166

ExxonMobil’s plans to restart its offshore drilling platforms in Santa Barbara County and truck that oil through California have been undermined by two unrelated announcements. Opponents responded today by calling on the company to abandon the project and decommission its offshore operations.  Santa Barbara County planning staff yesterday released a report opposing the use of State Route 166 to truck oil to Kern County, saying that use of this route would increase the likelihood of accidents and oil spills. Then Phillips 66 announced late yesterday that it will close its Santa Maria Refinery and related pipelines by 2023, shutting down the other option for ExxonMobil to get its offshore oil to a refinery.  

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Santa Barbara County to Vote on ExxonMobil Plan to Restart Offshore Platforms, Truck Oil in California  

Santa Barbara County has released the final environmental impact report on ExxonMobil’s proposal to transport oil by tanker trucks so it can restart three drilling platforms off California, setting up a vote on the project.  The plan calls for up to 70 oil-filled trucks per day on coastal Highway 101 and Route 166, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Santa Barbara County Planning Commission is scheduled to hold hearings on the project on Sept. 2 and Sept. 9 before voting on it.

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Another Oil Project Down: Community Health and the Environment Safeguarded

Today marks the end of another dirty oil project proposed by Aera Energy, LLC (“Aera”) in the Cat Canyon Oil Field.  Hundreds of oil tanker trucks will not flood our local roadways; thousands of native oak trees and threatened wildlife will survive; and our water will not be jeopardized by risky steam injection operations.  After three years of fighting to halt Aera’s efforts to massively expand oil production in Santa Barbara County, our community now celebrates the extraordinary news that our clean air and water will not be put at risk for dirty oil. 

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State Water Board Has a Choice: Clean Water or Dirty Oil in Santa Barbara County?

Pressure is mounting on the five members of the State Water Board (“Board”) to make the right choice between clean water or dirty oil in Santa Barbara County.  Safeguarding the quality of Californians’ drinking water is the mission that guides this agency.  Yet, the Board now faces a decision on a proposal that could allow oil and gas operators to inject steam and millions of gallons of toxic wastewater into aquifers beneath the Cat Canyon Oil Field in Santa Barbara County.  Injections of oil field fluids threaten to contaminate groundwater used by County residents for drinking and agriculture.  Today, the Environmental Defense Center (“EDC”) submitted a letter on behalf of forty-six organizations asking the Board to direct its staff to reject the proposal and protect our state’s precious water supplies. 

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PetroRock Withdraws Application to Significantly Expand Dirty Oil Production in Santa Barbara County

On March, 27, 2020, PetroRock LLC officially withdrew its application to drill and operate hundreds of new wells in the north central portion of the Cat Canyon Oil Field, located just 10 miles from Santa Maria.  PetroRock’s proposal threatened our local environment and community health, planning to drill 231 new wells, develop twenty-nine well pads, construct five dirty steam generators, use risky steam injection techniques to extract the heavy crude oil in the Field, and add dangerous oil tanker trucks to local roads.   

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EDC Responds to Plains All American Settlement

Today, state and federal agencies published a proposed settlement agreement with Plains All American Pipeline (“Plains”) in response to the May 19, 2015 Refugio Oil Spill. This spill resulted in hundreds of thousands of gallons of heavy crude along 150 miles of the California Coast, from Gaviota to the Channel Islands, and as far south as Orange County. The spill closed public beaches and parks, 138 square miles of fisheries, and killed hundreds of marine mammals and seabirds. The public has until April 18 to comment on the settlement. The agreement would set the amount of penalties and damages that Plains would pay to state and federal agencies to compensate for the harm from the massive oil spill and to pay for restoration projects. In addition, the agreement would allow Plains to restart the damaged pipeline. The Environmental Defense Center has several significant concerns with the proposed settlement.

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EDC Settles Clean Water Act Case Against PCEC’s Orcutt Hill Oil Operation

EDC reached a final settlement with Pacific Coast Energy Company LP (“PCEC”), for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act (“CWA”).  PCEC conducts oil exploration and development activities using enhanced oil extraction techniques such as cyclic steam injection at its 5,400 acre Orcutt Hill oil field operation.  Polluted runoff from this facility, which is located in northern Santa Barbara County, flows into Orcutt Creek and San Antonio Creek, which drain into the Santa Maria River and the Pacific Ocean, respectively.  These waters provide important habitat for threatened and endangered species, such as the Unarmored Threespined Stickleback, the Tidewater Goby, the Red Legged frog and steelhead, and are used for public recreation and enjoyment.  The settlement will reduce polluted runoff from the Orcutt Hill facility and establish a $115,000 fund for projects that enhance the quality of local watersheds.

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Environmental Defense Center Brings on New Staff

The Environmental Defense Center (EDC) is proud to announce three new staff members have been brought on to replace departing employees. They include Staff Attorney, Elizabeth Fisher, Office Manager & Event Coordinator, Daniel Elkin, and Development Coordinator, Jessica Dias. At the same time the organization has created a new leadership position, and promoted Betsy Weber, its longtime Communications Director to take on the position of Assistant Director. These staff transitions come at a critical time for the nonprofit public interest law firm, with growing public awareness of the urgency of global warming, and facing a hostile federal administration, an empowered oil industry, and a significant load of climate-related cases.

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Fund for Santa Barbara Supports EDC to Prevent Tripling of Onshore Oil Production in Santa Barbara County

Santa Barbara County faces a tripling of onshore oil production. Three oil companies are proposing to drill and operate over 700 new wells in Cat Canyon Oil Field, posing dangerous threats to clean air, clean water, public safety, and our climate. What’s more, these oil companies are not proposing conventional oil drilling, which is risky enough, but rather they are seeking permits for extreme, enhanced oil extraction processes known as cyclic steam injection and steam flooding, which are far riskier and more energy intensive than traditional drilling. The Environmental Defense Center (EDC) has just received $10,000 in grant funding from the Fund for Santa Barbara to help confront this major threat.

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Forest Service Extends Target Shooting Ban in Los Padres National Forest

The U.S. Forest Service has announced that it will extend for another six months a ban on unmanaged target shooting throughout the Los Padres National Forest. The ban—first announced in January 2019—allows forest officials and volunteers to address the proliferation of litter, soil and water contamination, wildfires, vandalism, impacts to endangered wildlife, and other environmental and public safety hazards caused by decades of unmanaged target shooting across nearly two million acres of public lands in Santa Barbara, Ventura, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, and western Kern counties.

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Environmental Groups Continue to Oppose Aera’s Cat Canyon Oil Project

Santa Barbara County and the public are still waiting for complete information regarding Aera’s proposed change to its massive Cat Canyon oil project. Based on information released thus far, it is clear that the project will still cause unacceptable risks and impacts to the environment and public health and safety. 

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Environmental Groups Seek Protections for Endangered Steelhead in the Santa Maria River

Environmental groups filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking water releases from Twitchell Dam to protect endangered Southern California steelhead in the Santa Maria River system. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of San Luis Obispo Coastkeeper and Los Padres ForestWatch by the Environmental Defense Center, Cooper & Lewand-Martin, Inc., and Aqua Terra Aeris Law Group. The case alleges that the Dam’s operators, the Santa Maria Valley Water Conservation District (“the District”) and Bureau of Reclamation (“Reclamation”), are violating the federal Endangered Species Act (“ESA”) by limiting the quantity and timing of flows in the Santa Maria River to levels that harm the critically-imperiled Steelhead population. The case seeks to enhance an important stretch of the Santa Maria River through an improved flow regime that would benefit the watershed, wildlife, and local communities.

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Lee Heller, Sabrina Venskus, and Naomi Kovacs Join Board of Environmental Defense Center

The Environmental Defense Center is proud to announce a major expansion of its board of directors. The organization has three new veteran environmental voices on its leadership team, with the addition of animal welfare and environmental activist Lee Heller; environmental attorney Sabrina Venskus; and longtime nonprofit and civic leader Naomi Kovacs. The three join EDC’s experienced board of directors at a time of profound importance for our climate and local environment.

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ENVIRONMENTAL GROUPS ACHIEVE VICTORY ON SANTA YNEZ RIVER TO PROTECT ENDANGERED STEELHEAD

The Environmental Defense Center on behalf of California Trout, Inc. secured a major victory for Southern California steelhead on the Santa Ynez River in Santa Barbara County. After nearly 20 years of working together to compel the State Water Resources Control Board (“the Board”) to order improved management of Bradbury Dam and the Cachuma Reservoir, the Board adopted a significant Order requiring improved water flows and critical studies to benefit endangered steelhead such as the potential for fish passage over the Dam and other improvements to habitat. This important Order will help restore the Santa Ynez River watershed for wildlife, recreation, and other uses.

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Groups Urge State to Protect Aquifers from Oil & Gas Operations in Santa Barbara County

Today, groups submitted a letter to California’s key resource agencies responsible for preserving and managing the State’s natural resources to urge the agencies to protect drinking water and safeguard public health from the pending request for exemption from federal safe drinking water rules in the Cat Canyon Oil Field in Santa Barbara County. The groups include the Environmental Defense Center, Natural Resources Defense Council, Clean Water Action, Friends of the Earth, and other community and environmental groups.  Oil and gas operators in Cat Canyon seek this “aquifer exemption” to dispose millions of gallons of toxic wastewater underground into water-bearing zones or to inject steam into these areas as part of a dirty and dangerous production technique known as “enhanced oil recovery.”  The groups are asking the State to withdraw the application for the Cat Canyon Aquifer Exemption or at least wait until the U.S. Geological Survey completes its study of the groundwater quality in the Field, which is expected to begin this year.

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