By Katie Davis
On August 14 ERG’s "West Cat Canyon Revitalization Plan Project" – one of three proposed projects to drill new oil wells in Northern Santa Barbara County’s Cat Canyon – was dropped from the agenda of the August 14 Santa Barbara County Planning Commission at the request of the applicant.
Facing unlikely approval and a recent ownership change, the project applicant for the pending oil project withdrew their item and asked for continuance to a later date.
This project was the first of three oil companies’ proposals in Cat Canyon near Santa Maria (the other two by Aera and PetroRock) to come before the Planning Commission. The three proposals cumulatively propose over 700 new wells using extreme cyclic steam injection to extract the oil.
The requested postponement takes places in the context of a recent 1.2 million gallon oil spill in a Chevron oil field in Kern county caused by cyclic steam injection, demonstrating the risks of this technique, and after facing overwhelming opposition in three previous Planning Commission hearings. Facing likely rejection, the applicant indicated they wanted to delay and add solar panels -- an effort opponents called "greenwashing" given the project would need 1000 acres of solar panels worth of energy just to power the steam injection engines.
The project is under new ownership. Bankrupt ERG was recently purchased by Terracore Operating Company, LLC, owned by Coloradan Will McConathy, considered to be “the youngest member of the Koch network," according to a 2016 article in The Hill.
A similar cyclic steam project proposed by Pacific Coast Energy in 2016 was rejected by the county due to "significant and unavoidable impacts to water resources."
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