Whose County is it Anyway?

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By Seth Steiner

After reading the Final Environmental Impact Report and the Staff Recommendation regarding the ERG application for expanded oil development in Cat Canyon, I spoke with Mr. Errin Briggs, the energy specialist in the county’s Planning & Development Department. Our conversation was enlightening and troubling. 

First of all, the consultant that provided the analysis for the county’s reports was selected and paid by the oil company seeking the permit. In the interest of maintaining at least an appearance of impartiality, this is simply unsupportable.

The other dismaying reality that was obvious from our conversation is that his P & D Department primarily sees these matters from the viewpoint of the oil companies. If an area has been historically zoned for oil development, then, case closed, that’s what should happen now and into the future, almost regardless of the environmental, health or economic consequences to residents of Santa Barbara County. This is a corruption of the CEQA process, requiring the project to be proven dangerous rather than shown to be safe. And when this standard is met, the facts are often ignored.

Even with this pro-oil prejudice, however, the following eye-popping paragraph appears embedded within the county report: “In summary, cumulative oil development within Cat Canyon oil field and corresponding oil transport would result in a significant and unavoidable impact associated with an accidental oil, produced water, or other hazardous material spill that could have substantial and long-term effects on… hydrological resources…”. This is the very groundwater that over 200,000 north-county residents depend on.

Separate from this is the fact that this company has chosen not to be a responsible corporate citizen. ERG refuses to pay $14.2 million in property taxes. This is money that could be used for schools and other pressing needs.

The Cat Canyon decision now stands with our five Planning Commissioners. Hopefully, they are aware of the glaring bias and inadequacy of the staff reports. After they vote, the County Supervisors, our directly elected officials, will have a say. Your voice counts here. Let them know your thoughts.


Seth Steiner has been an environmental consultant, with a graduate degree in air and water pollution, and is a member of the Advisory Committee of the San Antonio Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency, a member of the Los Alamos Planning Advisory Committee, a founding board member of Safe Energy Now! North County, a board member of his homeowners association, and a resident of Los Alamos.

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biguglystick Apr 03, 2019 06:29 PM
Whose County is it Anyway?

We need to explore and DEMAND greener alternatives to big oil! I don't want the next generations living in a HELL on Earth because we were so selfish we used it all up and killed everything.

Flicka Apr 02, 2019 07:36 AM
Whose County is it Anyway?

JAK, Gas prices have always been higher in SB than many other places. Part of it is, "Whatever the market will pay." Also, after the 1969 oil spill when SB got "environmental" the oil companies retaliated by making us pay. And, at the time there was a lot of oil extraction going on in our channel. Oil in Cat Canyon isn't going to lower gas prices.

jak Apr 01, 2019 02:11 PM
Whose County is it Anyway?

When I read through this thread, I am reminded of why I pay over three and a half bucks a gallon for gas when I’m in Santa Barbara and under two and a half bucks in so many other states (just over two bucks if I go to a state that doesn’t tax fuel - yes there really are such places).

PitMix Apr 02, 2019 10:30 AM
Whose County is it Anyway?

We do not have a supply problem, We have an artificially created demand problem created by big oil who have reduced the refineries down to several installations so they can say there is a problem every time they are taken down for maintenance or to switch to the summer blend. Then prices increase overnight. After the "problem" is resolved, the prices slowly creep down back to their original level. And what do our regulators do about this? Absolutely nothing.

Concerned4Calif Apr 01, 2019 10:52 AM
Whose County is it Anyway?

We should do what we reasonably can to protect the environment today while developing cleaner sources of energy for tomorrow. I have solar panels but still use lots of gasoline and other petroleum products. I think we all do and we will continue to use them until something better comes along. Every form of energy has a cost. Solar panels have nasty metals in them. Wind turbines kill an estimated 140,000 - 328,000 birds per year in the U.S. per the Audubon Society in 2016 so it is likely much higher now. Yet wind-energy is rapidly expanding. We are one planet. I would rather see oil developed here in the U.S. than in Venezuela where environmental protections are likely very minimal.

Flicka Apr 01, 2019 09:14 AM
Whose County is it Anyway?

Threatening the drinking water for 200,000 people is reason enough to deny oil development in Cat Canyon. Big oil translates to big money.

bas4241 Apr 01, 2019 08:32 AM
Whose County is it Anyway?

It is not the Planning Department's role to make policy. They are charged with making recommendations based on policy set by the Board of Supervisors.

yacht rocked Mar 31, 2019 06:45 PM
Whose County is it Anyway?

The contact info for the Planning Commission chair is (sorry about EdHat formatting): John Parke (Chair) c/o Planning & Development, Hearing Support 123 East Anapamu Street Santa Barbara, CA 93101 (805) 963-8611 [email protected]

macpuzl Mar 31, 2019 05:44 PM
Whose County is it Anyway?

Fossil fuels for power generation and transportation are toxic relics of a more ignorant time. Get rid of them, the sooner the better. If you add up all the hidden costs that we as a society subsidize for the carbon industry, in both money and well-being, they're a net drag on the economy.

CoastWatch Mar 31, 2019 04:50 PM
Whose County is it Anyway?

I am "pro-oil" with the implementation of the Federal-State-Local environmental standards, and that those standards are checked and documented at timely intervals I also don't understand AT ALL that it is mentioned that ERG is refusing to pay $14 million in taxes... WTF...? There needs to be transparency with regard to the tax issue...

PitMix Apr 01, 2019 09:49 AM
Whose County is it Anyway?

Goes to their ethics and how much we can trust them to run a good operation in extracting oil.

a-1575794342 Mar 31, 2019 04:37 PM
Whose County is it Anyway?

Raise your hand if you never: drive a gasoline-powered car, eat food delivered by a diesel-powered truck, fly in an aircraft powered by jet fuel, wear clothes made from synthetics, take prescription medications made from hydrocarbon precursors, use roads made from ashphalt, use electricity made from natural gas-powered turbines, purchase anything made from plastic, barbeque with propane, cook on a natural gas stove.

oceandrew Apr 01, 2019 03:51 PM
Whose County is it Anyway?

4:37PM ... Y'know, the petrochemical and fossil fuel industry has made addicts or us all. There is no denying it. For the past half century we've been told everything is better with plastics and petro-chemistry. Not to mention that the alternative to fossil fuel energy was wood or plutonium. But now there are loads of better alternatives and we'd be stupid as rocks not to explore them and start to wean ourselves from our dependence on a resource that is running out. So why not have an answer to the question of what we're to do when we do run out of oil and can't beg, borrow or steal anyone else's.

a-1575794342 Apr 01, 2019 03:10 PM
Whose County is it Anyway?

Raise your hand if you: Want your drinking water contaminated by harmful petro-chemicals, want local fish killed by harmful petro-chemicals, want to eat seafood and vegetables contaminated by harmful petro-chemicals, swim in an oil slimed sea, suffer more climate change droughts/fires/storms, move because global warming caused the sea levels to rise and push you out of your sea side home, get respiratory diseases from polluted air, pay absurd prices for an artificially sustained fuel source, see the beauties of nature consumed by urban sprawl, deal with immigration aggravated by rising sea levels, and (a personal favorite because I did and I’m certain you didn’t) fight wars for oil. If you and anyone else are up for all that - and especially the last one - drill and be damned!

PitMix Apr 01, 2019 09:51 AM
Whose County is it Anyway?

Raise your hand if you think we should try to make our energy needs as green as possible so that there will be a decent chance of your kids and grandkids having a viable planet to live on. And I don't even have any kids or grandkids but but my solar panels and electric car let me live like I do.

EastBeach Mar 31, 2019 06:33 PM
Whose County is it Anyway?

That's like asking your daughter if she likes the tasty strawberries the farmer in the next county grows with carcinogenic pesticides. What will you do when she says "more please"?

a-1575794342 Mar 31, 2019 03:08 PM
Whose County is it Anyway?

The sad fact is that we have a petroleum-based economy, and until that changes, Big Oil will win every time. By my calculation, we in SB county will be drilling oil for the next 100 years...at least. :(

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