Santa Barbara County Could Be Targeted for New Oil Drilling
Los Padres National Forest (file photo)
Source: Los Padres ForestWatch
[On October 31], the Trump administration finalized a study on the environmental and public health impacts of fracking, the last step in completing a Resource Management Plan that opens more than one million acres of lands throughout the coastal and interior regions of central California to new oil drilling and fracking. The action ends a 5-year moratorium on new oil and gas leasing on federal lands in California.
The study, which includes eight Central California counties from San Luis Obispo County in the North to Ventura County in the south, and from the coast inland to the southern Sierra Nevada mountain range, was fast-tracked by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to adhere to an executive order issued by the Trump administration. It found that fracking poses no significant impacts and recommended no changes to the plan that allows drilling and fracking on federal lands including in and adjacent to national forests, parks and monuments; state, county and city parks and beaches; state and federal wildlife refuges and ecological reserves; important waterways like rivers and reservoirs; school campuses; segments of the Pacific Crest Trail; and other areas especially sensitive to environmental and health impacts.
Click here for an interactive map showing the lands now open for leasing. A summary of key areas is attached.
“If the BLM didn’t find impacts from oil drilling and fracking next to schools, under rivers and reservoirs, and in habitat that harbors endangered animals, it’s because they didn’t look,” said ForestWatch executive director Jeff Kuyper. “The BLM has wasted taxpayers’ money and will cause irreparable damage with this sham study that places our treasured landscapes and communities at great risk.”
Nearly one-hundred thousand area residents submitted letters and hundreds attended public meetings expressing concern over water and air pollution, public health and climate impacts, and damage to protected wildlife habitat and sensitive species. The BLM refused to consider most public input by rejecting what it considered form letters, verbal testimony, and comments that did not provide what it termed “substantive” information.
Cities, counties, Native American tribes and organizations, NGOs, the US Navy, and elected officials were among those who sent letters opposing the plan which would allow oil companies to lease federally controlled mineral rights for oil development for as little as $2 an acre. The cities of Ojai and San Luis Obispo, and the County of Santa Barbara, all passed resolutions opposing the administration’s plan to allow oil drilling and fracking that would threaten public resources and current land use. Once the federal leases are purchased, the agencies will have little authority over how the lands are developed and whether impacts are mitigated.
“Every step of the way, the Trump administration declined to do its job to put public health and the safety of the environment before corporate interests,” said ForestWatch advocacy director Rebecca August. “It’s sad to see such disregard for the future of our public lands and the communities that depend on them.”
Due to a technicality invoked by the Trump administration, there is no formal appeal or public review process for the BLM’s decision. ForestWatch is working with its partners to evaluate next steps. The matter could end up back in federal court; a judge ordered the BLM study in response to a 2016 lawsuit brought by ForestWatch and the Center for Biological Diversity.
KEY LANDSCAPES TARGETED BY BLM DRILLING/FRACKING PLAN IN SANTA BARBARA COUNTY
Carpinteria & Cate School–A 40-acre parcel within 2,000 feet of Cate School and directly adjacent to the Los Padres National Forest. This is a privately-owned parcel with federally-owned subsurface mineral rights.
Santa Ynez Mountains–Two BLM parcels along the crest of the Santa Ynez Mountains. One (217 acres) is on the north face of Bald Mountain. The other (120acres) is in the headwaters of Nojoqui Creek near Nojoqui Falls County Park. Both are directly adjacent to the Los Padres National Forest.
Scenic Highway154–Two small Bureau of Reclamation parcels (20 acres total) near Lake Cachuma along Highway 154, a California Scenic Highway.
Lake Cachuma–A 40-acre Bureau of Reclamation parcel on the north side of Lake Cachuma near Happy Canyon Road, adjacent to the Los Padres National Forest.
Sisquoc River & San Rafael Wilderness–Several parcels totaling 1,766 acres inside the national forest boundary near the Sisquoc River, including one parcel adjacent to the San Rafael Wilderness and another parcel straddling the Sisquoc River, which is critical habitat for endangered steelhead.
Tepusquet Canyon–several BLM parcels totaling 1,793 acres in a rural, remote canyon east of Santa Maria. One of the largest parcels straddles Colson Canyon Road, one of the few gateways into the Los Padres National Forest in northern Santa Barbara County.
Cuyama Valley Foothills–13,375 acres along the foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountains in the Cuyama Valley. Most of these parcels are adjacent to national forest lands proposed for wilderness protection under the Central Coast Heritage Protection Act introduced in the House and Senate earlier this year. Two areas to be opened to drilling and fracking are major gateways into the Los Padres National Forest–Santa Barbara Canyon and Bates Canyon. Both have publicly-accessibly trailheads and roads leading into the Los Padres National Forest.
Purisima Hills–several parcels between Los Alamos and Lompoc in the Purisima Hills, including 4 parcels totaling 160 acres owned by the Rancho Santa Rita Preserve, part of the state-and federally-approved La Purisima Conservation Bank. The 853-acre bank–the first of its kind in Santa Barbara County–provides a mechanism for developers and agencies to mitigate their impacts by purchasing mitigation credits at the property. The conservation bank contains a healthy population of endangered California tiger salamanders.
Vandenberg Air Force Base–Nearly the entire Vandenberg Air Force Base—102,650 acres—is slated as “open” for drilling. This includes Ocean Beach County Park—one of the few coastal access points for residents of the City of Lompoc. Portions of Point Sal County Park and Point Sal State Beach are also opened for drilling/fracking under the plan.
City of Lompoc–3,158 acres within city limits of the City of Lompoc, including farmland and open space west of Highway 1 and north of the Lompoc Airport.
Ken Adam Park – The 42-acre Ken Adam Park near Allan Hancock College features a large group picnic area, a children's playground, individual picnic areas, horseshoes, volleyball, nature trails, six primitive RV campsites, and restroom facilities. It also contains a magnificent three-poled flag monument which sits on a bluff overlooking Lompoc. The flag monument was developed as a project of the former Western Spaceport Museum project. The park is named after Ken Adam, the longtime owner and publisher of the Lompoc Record newspaper. It’s part of a larger 118-acre property that contains 76 acres of undeveloped open space. The city’s Parks and Recreation Department is developing a comprehensive master plan for the entire property.
Allan Hancock College – The college’s Lompoc Valley Center is a satellite location to the main Allan Hancock College campus in Santa Maria. The Lompoc Valley Center provides courses for 34 degree and certificate programs, along with a Public Safety Training Complex that houses the college’s police, fire, emergency medical services, and environmental technology programs. The state-of-the-art complex includes a six-story fire tower, one-mile Emergency Vehicle Operations course, a ‘scenario’ village, shooting range, fitness track, obstacle course and much more.
Jalama Beach County Park – Most of the federal mineral estate underneath this locally-popular beach are zoned for drilling and fracking. Fossil fuel development here would also affect the adjacent Jack & Laura Dangermond Preserve, which was acquired by The Nature Conservancy in 2017 and covers 8 miles of coastline and 24,000 acres between Hollister Ranch and Vandenberg Air Force Base.