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

April 1, 2020

Santa Barbara, CA – Last week, 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.

Since 2017, the Environmental Defense Center (“EDC”), on behalf of our clients, Sierra Club Los Padres Chapter and Santa Barbara County Action Network (“SBCAN”), has voiced strong opposition to PetroRock’s project and to two additional steam injection projects proposed in Cat Canyon, one by Aera Energy and the other by TerraCore (formerly ERG). Collectively, these projects would have tripled onshore oil production in Santa Barbara County. EDC, along with our partner groups and community members, managed to halt the dangerous PetroRock proposal from moving forward for over a year and now we celebrate our success as PetroRock has taken its project off the table.

“The termination of the PetroRock application is a major victory for our environment and public health, and demonstrates the power of the people to dictate the clean energy future we want for our County,” said Tara Messing, Staff Attorney for the EDC. “We must maintain this momentum to put even more pressure on the remaining two projects proposed by Aera and TerraCore, which pose unacceptable risks to County residents’ air, drinking water, and public safety.”

Although our community faces one less fossil fuel generating project, the fight continues against the two other Cat Canyon projects. Aera and TerraCore’s projects will add nearly 500 new wells to the Field, generate substantial greenhouse gas emissions that severely increase climate risks, may jeopardize drinking water quality in the Santa Maria Groundwater Basin, use thousands of gallons of local freshwater for drilling, and threaten public safety by adding hundreds of tanker truck trips to highways and rural roads.

“As evidenced by the recent crash and spill of over 4,500 gallons of crude oil into the Cuyama River, the remaining Cat Canyon proposals constitute major threats to our water, wildlife, and communities,” said Ken Hough, Executive Director of SBCAN. “Hundreds more crude oil tanker trucks will be put on our roads if the TerraCore and Aera Energy projects are approved.”

“As the world responds to the climate crisis, it’s time to shift investments from fossil fuels to renewable energy, which will provide cleaner air and water, and more stable jobs and economic benefits going forward,” said Katie Davis, Chair of the Sierra Club Los Padres Chapter.

EDC, our clients, and our partners will continue to fight the remaining two projects as they work their way through the permitting process, ensuring the protection of the communities that live, work and play near Cat Canyon as well as the protection of our natural resources.


The 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 empowered community-based organizations to advance environmental protection. 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

The Sierra Club is a national, environmental organization that protects communities, wild places, and the planet. The Sierra Club Los Padres Chapter serves Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties. Learn more about Sierra Club Los Padres Chapter at http://lospadres.sierraclub.org/

Santa Barbara County Action Network works to promote social and economic justice, to preserve our environmental and agricultural resources, and to create sustainable communities. SB CAN advocates a holistic approach to community planning that integrates housing, open space, and transportation to meet the needs of all members of our community and future generations. Learn more at www.sbcan.org.


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