Proposed Oil Project in Cat Canyon Cancelled

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Source: Environmental Defense Center

[Wednesday] marks the end of another dirty oil project proposed by Aera Energy, LLC (“Aera”) in the Cat Canyon Oil Field.  Hundreds of oil tanker trucks will not flood our local roadways; thousands of native oak trees and threatened wildlife will survive; and our water will not be jeopardized by risky steam injection operations.  After three years of fighting to halt Aera’s efforts to massively expand oil production in Santa Barbara County, our community now celebrates the extraordinary news that our clean air and water will not be put at risk for dirty oil. 

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 Aera’s dangerous project and two other steam injection projects proposed in Cat Canyon, one by PetroRock LLC (“PetroRock”) and the other by TerraCore (formerly ERG).  News that Aera’s risky oil project will not go forward comes on the heels of PetroRock recently abandoning its application to drill and operate hundreds of new wells in Cat Canyon. Together, these three oil projects had been considered one of the largest environmental justice threats in Santa Barbara County history.  While TerraCore’s project has yet to be defeated, today’s victory is orders of magnitude more important and consequential. 

“The long fight against Aera’s dangerous oil project by EDC, our clients, partner groups, and community members has proven successful and these efforts serve to benefit our community and environmental health,” said Tara Messing, Staff Attorney for EDC. “Defeating Aera’s attacks on our air, water, and climate means one less environmentally-damaging oil project that would have committed our County to decades of fossil fuel energy generation.  The withdrawal of Aera’s application to produce more dirty oil in Santa Barbara County is a major step towards the phasing out of fossil fuels and fostering a clean renewable energy future.”

EDC’s work on defeating the three Cat Canyon projects has involved a complex, multi-level strategy.  Nearly 500 pages of information was submitted by EDC on Aera’s draft environmental impact report that pointed out numerous omissions and inconsistencies about the project’s impacts from oil spills, fires, greenhouse gas emissions, grading of sensitive habitat, paving, trucking on our local roads, and freshwater usage.  In addition, EDC has been supporting the effort to build grassroots pressure, working to prevent these oil operators from depositing chemically polluted wastewater in underground aquifers, and fighting a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service General Conservation Plan from easing a path for oil companies, like Aera, to destroy hundreds of acres of essential habitat critical for local endangered and threatened species.

“A major victory! Aera, which is co-owned by Exxon and Shell, recognized that decision-makers would not rubber stamp their dangerous project and would be taking into account the well-documented impacts to water, air, endangered species and climate, as well as overwhelming community opposition,” said Katie Davis, Chair of the Sierra Club Los Padres Chapter.

After today, there is one less threat from risky oil operations, but EDC and our clients now turn our focus to stopping the TerraCore project.  This remaining threat will add hundreds of 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. 

"SBCAN has been working for more than eight years to defeat onshore oil development proposals in the Santa Maria area," said Ken Hough, Executive Director. "First, Santa Maria Energy was subjected to strict mitigations by the County, then Pacific Coast Energy's Orcutt Hill expansion was denied by the County, then one and now two oil projects have withdrawn from the fight sensing the formidable community opposition and the futility of trying to make profit drilling for some of the thickest oil in the world."

EDC, our clients, and our partners will continue to put pressure on the remaining TerraCore project as it continues through the permitting process.  Through these efforts, we hold the protection of our natural resources and surrounding communities paramount.

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CoastWatch May 28, 2020 10:53 AM
Proposed Oil Project in Cat Canyon Cancelled

The Oil Companies need to incorporate marijuana grows within their permits... apparently, it would fly with EDC and the County if they did so.

PitMix May 28, 2020 11:30 AM
Proposed Oil Project in Cat Canyon Cancelled

Why are you lumping the EDC with the County on the pot grows? I can't find any info that EDC supports those unpermitted unregulated farming operations. If anything, they would prefer that land to go back to native habitat.

a-1590693670 May 28, 2020 12:21 PM
Proposed Oil Project in Cat Canyon Cancelled

This just seems like the utmost height of Nimbyism. I can’t believe none of these people drive vehicles that need fuel or heat/cool their houses without it, just to mention a few things.

Chip of SB May 28, 2020 12:44 PM
Proposed Oil Project in Cat Canyon Cancelled

I think Aera is approaching this the wrong way. You can't just drill a few wells around here anymore, times have changed. Instead, I would propose a biomass generation plant coupled with solar. That project would immediately get a rubber stamp since it's "green" and forward thinking. Once the biomass plant was established, they could bulldoze all those oaks and burn them to make "green" energy. Then they could cover the entire property in solar panels. The solar is great, it requires a new gas power plant to supplement it at night and when it's overcast. Finally, a few new oil/gas wells might be needed to provide energy to supplement the solar. While we all hate oil and gas, it's a necessary step in the transition to a "clean" and "green" future. I think this is a great solution. Aera gets to drill it's wells, and the environmentalists would be appeased by the "green" energy project. Perhaps some 500 foot tall wind turbines could round out the project.

PitMix May 28, 2020 03:35 PM
Proposed Oil Project in Cat Canyon Cancelled

Wow, dude, who harshed your mellow? Man, your project sounded really groovy until you want to smash the Grandfather Chumash Oaks. I can't dig that at all.

RHS May 28, 2020 04:32 PM
Proposed Oil Project in Cat Canyon Cancelled

Truth be told. The exploitation of costly petroleum resources is a lost purpose. Both Russia and the Saudis can easily undersell anything we squeeze out of this. It appears that the oil companies are learning that their grotesque torture of nature (shale oils and such) is not profitable after all so they are walking away. This is a true test of a free enterprise system and, without government subsidy, the value is nil.

salsa guy May 29, 2020 08:44 AM
Proposed Oil Project in Cat Canyon Cancelled

Wow, too bad we lost another “ oil” project. Were are the enviros protesting and throwing resources at the out of control marijuana industry. Talk about pollution! What are the grow factories doing to quality of life to those living near them? I do like the idea of a biomass operation . We could use the stalks of aging plants for fuel. As to Russia and the Saudis being able to undercut our US oil production requires a lack of the understanding of economics. The Saudis and more so Russia have economies that need oil revenue to operate. We do not!

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