Santa Barbara California’s oil and natural gas fields have seen an increase of exemptions from federal drinking waters protections in recent years. This has led to a decline in public health and the risk of groundwater contamination. Santa Barbara County is not an exception. Santa Barbara County is no exception. The Fund for Santa Barbara (Fund for Santa Barbara), has awarded EDC $10,000 in grant funding to allow it to continue its research, as well as to distribute information about Cat Canyon Aquifer Exemption (to clients and partners) to help prevent irreparable, unmitigated harm to drinking water, groundwater for farming, and public safety for the surrounding communities.
EDC has been involved in this project, Protecting Drinking Water For the Communities Surrounding Cat Canyon since 2019. EDC has distributed information to a coalition grassroots organizations and advocated before decision-makers. EDC also submitted numerous comment letters, expert reports and group letters to CalGEM and the State Water Resources Control Board to oppose this Exemption. If approved, the Cat Canyon Aquifer Exemption may allow for dangerous steam injection operations to expand in the Cat Canyon Oil Field. This type of enhanced oil recovery is not common. This method is more risky and carbon-intensive, which further contributes to the climate crisis. Injection of oilfield fluids and hot steam into the aquifers can contaminate North County residents drinking water. It also threatens freshwater supplies that are needed to support local agricultural activities. This groundwater is vital for the water supply of Cat Canyon and its surrounding communities. Additionally, Cat Canyon Oil Field parts are already ranked amongst the top 1 percent for groundwater threats. This increases concerns about groundwater degrading further if this exemption is approved. EDC will be able continue its efforts to stop this aquifer exclusion. This grant from the Fund will allow EDC to do so.
Linda Krop, Chief Counsel at EDC, stated that the Environmental Defense Center is grateful for the Fund for Santa Barbara’s support in our efforts to protect drinking water for 150,000 North County Santa Barbara residents. We, the Sierra Club and Santa Barbara County Action Network, in partnership with affected communities in North County oppose the States proposal that drinking water aquifers be exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act and allows oil companies to inject their toxic materials in areas that could threaten vital water supplies to surrounding communities.
These efforts are designed to protect groundwater from oil operations, and prevent the expansion in Cat Canyon of oil production that could impact communities in North Santa Barbara County. EDC’s primary role is to conduct legal and scientific research, engage advocacy, and ensure partner organizations do the organizing work have all the information they need in order to build support. EDC helps grassroots organizations participate in the process of bringing about change. This ensures that there is a stronger foundation for community representation should issues such as this dangerous aquifer exclusion arise.
Environmental Defense Center, a non-profit law firm, protects and enhances the local environment through education, advocacy, and legal action and works primarily within Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo counties. EDC has supported community-based organizations in environmental protection since 1977. EDC’s program areas include climate, energy, protecting clean water, and open space and wildlife. Learn more about EDC here www.EnvironmentalDefenseCenter.org