Open letter to the County Supervisors: The Carpinteria Valley Association was both shocked and vindicated to read in the May 5 issue of the Santa Barbara Independent that Venoco, Inc. is engaged in “fracking” activities at two sites near Vandenberg, and that the County Energy Division was unaware of it.
Vindicated because in working to raise public awareness about fracking, we have occasionally encountered an attitude of “Fortunately, it’s not happening here, is it?” Shocked because it demonstrates the inexcusable lack of oversight of the oil and gas industry by the government bodies charged with regulating it.
Hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) is very much in the news these days, and just this week a study was published by scientists at Duke University officially linking natural-gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing with a pattern of drinking water contamination so severe that some faucets can be lit on fire.
This is a wake-up call for Santa Barbara County. It is imperative that you as supervisors educate yourselves and the County Energy Division on the irreversible contamination of groundwater that is a “collateral effect” of hydraulic fracturing. (Viewing the documentary Gasland, available through Netflix, is a good place to start.)
The need for this education is clear: County Energy Division’s Doug Anthony is quoted in the May 5 Independent as saying, “So far, DOGGR seems to think it is going to be okay.” This is clearly not the case, as Assembly Bill 591, currently pending in Sacramento, points out:
"Existing Law: While DOGGR has statutory authority (Public Resources Code 3106), to regulate fracking, the agency currently does not collect any information specific to fracking or conduct any regulatory oversight of fracking."
Likewise, anyone relying on the 2004 ruling of the Environmental Protection Agency, which alleged that the process was “essentially safe" needs to look further. According to EPA whistleblower Weston Wilson, the 2004 EPA study was influenced by the Oil and Gas industry, performed on coal shale, and suppressed evidence of methane migration into groundwater basins. This contamination has now been confirmed by the study at Duke University.
We urge you to insist that the County Energy Division suspend the permit and/or stop Venoco’s un-permitted activities on these two sites. Likewise, we urge you to fully investigate the oil and gas industry’s activities in Santa Barbara County. Finally, we urge you to enact the requisite ordinance(s) to prohibit hydro-fracking for either oil or gas in all of Santa Barbara County.
This is urgent!
Vera Bensen is the president of the Board of the Carpinteria Valley Association.