Save Our Water, Health and Environment
Santa Barbara County is under threat of a massive increase in oil production made possible through dangerous and polluting "enhanced" extraction techniques.
A 40-Fold Increase will destroy our environment
As of the beginning of 2015, there are currently applications pending for 629 new steam-injection oil wells in addition to 200 already approved in 2014, and that's just the beginning. One company alone has said it has plans for 7,700 new oil wells in the county. This represents approximately a 40-fold increase in steam injection wells (there are about 200 active currently) and a 10-fold increase in total oil wells. Most of this expansion is around Santa Maria, Orcutt and Lompoc. However, new drilling is also proposed near Los Olivos, on the bluffs and beaches of Carpinteria and Goleta and offshore in the channel.
extreme oil at extreme cost
New extreme techniques have increased oil production in the Canadian tarsands and shale formations of North Dakota and Texas, but at tremendous cost. Those regions have suffered from environmental catastrophes. Cancer and birth defects have been linked to drilling. Earthquakes have increased five-fold. Groundwater has been permanently contaminated.
This oil boom is now coming to Santa Barbara County, and it's not the conventional oil that we've been drilling for a hundred years.
- Steam Injection: This water- and energy-intensive process is one of the techniques behind the Canadian tarsands oil boom and is expanding the most rapidly in Santa Barbara County. It involves steam-heating heavy oil to 500 degrees to fracture rock and melt it out of the ground. This is the most greenhouse gas intensive form of oil production in the world, which also means more local air pollution. In some cases, it may actually use more energy than it creates. It also causes well casings to fail at a high rate and can fracture bedrock and pollute groundwater. In Cold Lake, Canada, a steam-injection spill continued for nearly a year and they were unable to stop it. Here in Santa Barbara County, steam has already caused numerous cases of "oil seeping to the ground surface due to casing leaks." Sometimes it comes up in "violent eruptions." In one case, a California oil worker was sucked into the ground and boiled alive. In another case, polluted water leached into groundwater and killed millions of dollars of almond orchards. The Bureau of Land Management has also cited more earthquakes around waste-water re-injection sites in Santa Barbara County.
- Fracking: This technique involves injecting water, sand and toxic chemicals underground to break up rock and extract oil and gas. The practice has been halted or banned in many states and countries due to water contamination issues, earthquakes and other problems. Fracking is currently happening offshore in the Santa Barbara Channel without oversight. The Federal government is currently being sued for lack of environmental review, and wastewater is being dumped directly into the ocean. Fracking is also happening south of us in Ventura and east of us in Kern County and has happened onshore in Santa Barbara County as well.
Acidizing: This is similar to fracking, but instead of breaking up the rock, it uses hydrochloric and hydrofluoric acid to melt the rock. According to the Centers for Disease Control, hydrofluoric acid is one of the most toxic chemicals in industrial use. The CDC lists it as a potential chemical weapon. The United Steelworkers want its use phased out of oil refineries entirely, calling it a risk too great for the steelworkers and the 26 million Americans living near refineries. The EDC has documented acidizing from Platform Holly, the offshore well near UCSB.
Oil production generates very few jobs and puts stresses on the rest of our economy. Industrial oil production tends to crowd other things out. It competes with agriculture for land and water. It creates blight that discourages tourism and technology. It can negatively affect the value of adjacent properties and farms. It increases asthma and other chronic health problems, raising costs and crowding in health care facilities.
All the problems with these techniques -- water use and contamination, earthquakes, etc. -- are worse here in Santa Barbara County where we have a unique and precious environment, limited water, and large populations living in close proximity to proposed wells.
Instead of drilling for more oil, we should build the clean energy economy of the future
Santa Barbara County is at the front-line of the battle against global climate change. At a time when scientists are telling us that climate change is affecting us now in the form of drought, increased wildfires, rising sea levels and other catastrophic impacts, and that these impacts will be irreversible if we do not begin reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it is simply wrong to double down on the most polluting fossil fuel production here in Santa Barbara County where we have plenty of sun and wind and could lead the way in renewable energy.
Instead of drilling for more oil, Santa Barbara County should build the clean energy economy of the future. But it won't happen without a fight. We are up against the most powerful corporations on the planet who will spend whatever it takes to extract every last drop of oil no matter the cost.