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

January 28, 2020

Santa Barbara – 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.

EDC is representing the Sierra Club Los Padres Chapter, Santa Barbara County Action Network (SBCAN,) and its own members to fight what has been called the most significant environmental justice issue to confront the County in decades. The projects pose significant threats to our climate, use enormous quantities of water and toxic chemicals, such as for acidizing, and jeopardize public health for local communities. Additionally, these projects will destroy native habitats, endanger wildlife, remove native oak trees, and generate over four hundred tanker truck trips every day on local roads. And finally, the oil companies seek to get around federal drinking water protections to dispose of their toxic waste into aquifers, and to streamline permitting under the Endangered Species Act, threatening the recovery of federally listed species.

“These destructive and irresponsible projects have united a broad coalition of social justice and environmental organizations,” said EDC attorney, Tara Messing. “These are enormously complex cases, requiring significant resources, and confronting very powerful corporate interests. EDC is grateful for the support provided by the Fund for Santa Barbara.”    

The three projects are being proposed by Aera Energy, which is jointly owned by affiliates of Shell Oil and ExxonMobil, Terracore (formerly ERG), and PetroRock, and each on its own timetable.  EDC and its clients and partner organizations have been working to oppose these massive and dangerous oil projects since early 2017. Thanks in part to information and questions EDC has raised before the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission, Terracore’s project has been delayed, but within the next few months, we can expect to see Aera and Terracore back in front of the Planning Commission and then the Board of Supervisors for a decision. PetroRock has yet to release a draft environmental impact report for public comment.

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Environmental Defense Center, a non-profit law firm, protects and enhances the local environment through education, advocacy, and legal action and works primarily within Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo counties. Since 1977, EDC has provided free and low-cost legal services to fellow nonprofit organizations throughout the Tri-County region.  Program areas include climate and energy, and protecting clean water, the Santa Barbara Channel, and open space and wildlife. Learn more about EDC at www.EnvironmentalDefenseCenter.org 

FUND FOR SANTA BARBARA is a 501c3 nonprofit community foundation dedicated to addressing the root causes of social, economic, environmental and political challenges in Santa Barbara County. For more information visit www.fundforsantabarbara.org.

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