Pacific Coast Energy Company’s Oil Drilling Project

  • Goal: Stop a dirty and risky cyclic steam injection project in Santa Barbara County
  • Year Started: 2015
  • Clients Sierra Club, SBCAN


Cyclic steam injection is a very risky oil drilling technique in which water is super-heated and pumped underground to liquefy hard to access oil reserves. This procedure is much more energy and carbon intensive than conventional oil drilling, uses massive quantities of water, has a high well casing failure rate, and has been linked to new oil seeps and contaminated groundwater. In early 2015, Pacific Coast Energy Company (PCEC) submitted a proposal to the County of Santa Barbara to expand its existing drilling operation at Orcutt Hill, thus doubling the risks to our community health and our environment.

PCEC proposed to drill another 144 new and replacement cyclic steam injection oil wells in an area that contains endangered plants and animals, including the California Tiger Salamander, Lompoc Yerba Santa, and Bishop Pine forest. This site has also been prone to oil seeps, and in fact the existing operations have caused more than 99 accidental oil seeps and 24 spills, leading PCEC to have the highest volume of spills of any oil company in Santa Barbara County in 2015. EDC and our clients successfully convinced the Planning Commission to deny the project due to the unavoidable impacts to air and water quality, endangered species and sensitive habitat. PCEC appealed the decision to the Board of Supervisors, but after substantial effort and advocacy, we prevailed and the Board denied the appeal.

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