Fracking Ban Coming to Santa Barbara?

Friday, May 2, 2014
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The Water Guardians, a new Santa Barbara–based anti-fracking group that started gathering real momentum in March, have become even more recognizable in recent weeks.

Wearing bright blue shirts, the diverse group of about 300 volunteers has flocked to grocery stores, farmers markets, and college campuses to gather 20,000 signatures for an initiative that would ban fracking, acid well stimulation treatments, cyclic steam injection, and other “enhanced” oil extraction techniques for future projects in the unincorporated areas of Santa Barbara County.

If 13,201 of the signatures came from registered voters — the county registrar’s office has until June 13 to verify a random sample — the initiative will be placed on the November ballot. Or, the Board of Supervisors could adopt the measure beforehand with a 3-2 vote.

Though “fracking” has become a buzz word, it is not currently taking place in Santa Barbara County. But cyclic steam injection — a three-stage method for extracting crude oil — is happening and is a primary concern for Water Guardian organizer Katie Davis. Davis argued that injected steam can bring naturally occurring radioactive materials and other harmful elements to the surface in the form of produced water. Further, she said steam injection can cause groundwater pollution in the event of a spill, could result in seeps and eruptions, and uses a lot of water. “The risk is pretty clear,” said Davis. “If we don’t get it on the ballot now, it might be too late down the road.”

The measure would prohibit the construction of high-intensity petroleum operations onshore. (But it would not affect offshore drilling in federal waters.) The initiative would not apply to projects already approved, such as Santa Maria Energy’s (SME) 136-well project approved last year or to applications already submitted. The county’s Energy Division Deputy Director Kevin Drude said he expects to see a number of projects similar to SME’s submit applications in the future, but none have done so.

According to Drude, larger projects in the county are not currently using groundwater in cyclic steaming. (Part of the stipulations for the SME project approval was that it must use reclaimed water. SME is installing a new pipeline to use reclaimed water from the Laguna Sanitation District in North County.)

But attorney Rachel Hooper, who is representing the Water Guardians, argued water is not the only concern as cyclic steam injection produces massive amounts of greenhouse gases. The production of steam is not only harmful to human health, she claimed, but contributes to climate change.

“I think it’s an emotional issue. People are very afraid of fracking,” Drude said. “In this county, my experience is that because of the oversight of the county’s energy division, we have a pretty tight regulatory control.” Senate Bill 4, which is near finalization, will put in place monitoring and operational management of fracking in the state.

Similar measures are occurring in cities and counties across the state that would supplement SB 4. In the City of Los Angeles, the city council directed its staff to draft a moratorium on fracking and “enhanced” techniques, arguing that unconventional extraction processes threaten to contaminate drinking-water supplies, cost taxpayers money to treat contaminated groundwater resources, and undermine work to address the climate crisis. In February, the council unanimously voted to advance the moratorium, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Despite support for the initiative, Davis said volunteers ran into hecklers in the process. “You couldn’t pay people to do this,” she said.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

It makes PERFECT sense to ban fracking because:

1. It has done zero damage to anything anywhere.

2. Has lowered US CO2 emissions back to 1998 levels by lowering the price of natural gas, which electric plants are now using more instead of coal.

3. All the fracking currently in SB county uses the same amount of water as a single golf course

4. Reduces our dependency on and arguments for foreign wars to secure oil.

So OF COURSE we need to ban fracking. It makes us feel good about ourselves as we dream of windmills and solar panels that are 10x more expensive than oil and contribute a tiny fraction to the lowering of CO2 during the past 10 years.

realitycheck88 (anonymous profile)
May 3, 2014 at 9:56 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Nothing realitycheck88 has said in their comment is true.

nitrogen (anonymous profile)
May 3, 2014 at 4:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)


1. Citation Needed

2. Citation Needed

3. Citation Needed

4. Citation Needed

JaggedJax (anonymous profile)
May 3, 2014 at 4:26 p.m. (Suggest removal)

From the article:

"Though “fracking” has become a buzz word, it is not currently taking place in Santa Barbara County."

From realitycheck88:

3. All the fracking currently in SB county uses the same amount of water as a single golf course

HAHAHA - can you read ? Why don't you check with a) the article b) google? before wasting people's time with nonsense.

tabatha (anonymous profile)
May 3, 2014 at 4:51 p.m. (Suggest removal)

JaggedJax: I'm citing you for repiititious posting. You can choose your punishment: Either pay the $40 fine, or be forced to sit through a city council meeting. Have you ever had to attend one? 4 cans of Red Bull couldn't keep you awake.

dolphinpod14 (anonymous profile)
May 3, 2014 at 6:36 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Let me see. We're sitting on the largest shale oil reserve in the country. Oil companies are telling their investors they plan to frack and acidize said shale. A Chinese mining company just plowed $665M in local oil fields. SME says they have 7700 well locations they want to steam inject -- a process that is being investigated by 3 agencies after massive underground leaks in Canada -- and we're supposed to roll over and let these companies do as they will?

The volunteers with Water Guardians should be applauded for trying to protect SB County.

jdiggs (anonymous profile)
May 3, 2014 at 9:21 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Proponents can whitewash the situation all they want with standard industry pr talking points. Truth is that job creation is minimal and water usage is unsustainable. It's a pipe dream to think recycled water will supply 7700 more wells. These drillers will find private well owners, discretely buy potable water and truck it to these wells. Does that sound like a good idea to you?
Of course having vast underground areas contaminated with their toxic brew of benzene, toluene, xylene and other vocs will never be a problem either , right?
If the Supervisors duck the issue, we can all have our say in November thanks to Water Guardians. Special thanks to Becca, Katie and all the other incredible volunteers who organized this effort . Well done!

geeber (anonymous profile)
May 4, 2014 at 4:08 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Fracking Data Woefully Lacking in Canada, Finds Federal Report

There is simply not enough reliable information to be confident about the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing, according to a new report released by the Council of Canadian Academies.

The report, commissioned by Environment Canada, takes a broad view of the implications of “fracking,” from possible contamination of land and water to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to human health and social impacts. It identified several key areas of concern, particularly that pathways created by leakage of natural gas from “improperly formed, damaged or deteriorated cement seals” may contaminate ground water and increase GHG emissions.

Includes a diagram to show how contamination can occur.

tabatha (anonymous profile)
May 4, 2014 at 11:07 p.m. (Suggest removal)

What Tabatha really means is there is no evidence that fracking has EVER caused groundwater contamination. The only contamination that has ever been confirmed is from surface spills of fracking fluid.

Botany (anonymous profile)
May 5, 2014 at 5:46 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The Growing Evidence of the Threat of Fracking to the Nation’s Groundwater

In fact, even with the limited research done to date, there is clear scientific evidence that fracking not only can — but already has — led to groundwater contamination, including a new study just released this week. Here are just seven separate lines of evidence:

As far back as 1984, the USEPA reported on a clear case in which hydraulic fracturing fluids and natural gas from production operations contaminated a groundwater well in West Virginia, “rendering it unusable.”

The USEPA issued a draft report in 2011 on groundwater contamination in Pavillion, Wyoming, that showed extensive presence of fracking chemicals (natural and synthetic) in shallow and deep groundwater systems. Some of this contamination may have resulted from faulty wells drilled through groundwater aquifers; some of it may have resulted from surface seepage of fracking waste fluids escaping from badly designed and managed wastewater pits.

The US Geological Survey Report issued its own independent assessment of the Pavillion, Wyoming groundwater testing that also showed high concentrations of several chemicals used in fracking.

A Canadian groundwater contamination report described a “hydraulic fracturing incident” in 2011 in which errors in well drilling and management led to the release of fracking chemicals into groundwater including isopropanolamine, benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, petroleum hydrocarbons, and more.

A Duke University peer-reviewed study showed that fracked groundwater systems pose risks to other groundwater systems that were thought to be, but were not, hydraulically separate. This study clearly shows the risks in some groundwater geologies of cross contamination.

Even more compelling, another peer-reviewed study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences documented “systematic evidence for methane contamination of drinking water associated with shalegas extraction.”

The latest peer-reviewed study, released this week, also shows strong evidence that increased concentrations of methane and other hydrocarbons in drinking water wells are directly correlated with proximity to gas wells in the Marcellus Shale region of Pennsylvania.

What the first article was stating was that there too many unknown unknowns, very different from no evidence.

tabatha (anonymous profile)
May 5, 2014 at 5:54 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Water usage - insanity

Use of water for hydraulic fracturing can divert water from stream flow, water supplies for municipalities and industries such as power generation, as well as recreation and aquatic life.[113] The large volumes of water required for most common hydraulic fracturing methods have raised concerns for arid regions, such as Karoo in South Africa,[114] and in Pennsylvania,[115][116] and in drought-prone Texas, and Colorado in North America.[117] To provide a perspective Texas has used 110 of the 250 billion of gallons of water the United States has used from 2005 to 2013.[106] According to Environment America there are concerns for farmers competing with oil and gas for water.[106]

So, for fracking, the US used 250 billion gallons of water from 2005 to 2013, and of that 110 billion was used by Texas alone.


Fracking Wells since 2005 82,000

Toxic Wastewater Produced in 2012 (billion gallons) 280
Water Used since 2005 (billion gallons) 250
Chemicals Used since 2005 (billion gallons) 2
Air Pollution in One Year (tons) 450,000
Global Warming Pollution since 2005 (million metric tons CO2-equivalent) 100
Land Directly Damaged since 2005 (acres) 360,000

Toxic wastewater: Fracking produces enormous volumes of toxic wastewater—often containing cancer-causing and even radioactive material. Once brought to the surface, this toxic waste poses hazards for drinking water, air quality and public safety:

• Fracking wells nationwide produced an estimated 280 billion gallons of wastewater in 2012.

• This toxic wastewater often contains cancer-causing and even radioactive materials, and has contaminated drinking water sources from Pennsylvania to New Mexico.
• Scientists have linked underground injection of wastewater to earthquakes.
• In New Mexico alone, waste pits from all oil and gas drilling have contaminated groundwater on more than 400 occasions.

Water use: Fracking requires huge volumes of water for each well.

• Fracking operations have used at least 250 billion gallons of water since 2005. (See Table ES-2.)
• While most industrial uses of water return it to the water cycle for further use, fracking converts clean water into toxic wastewater, much of which must then be permanently disposed of, taking billions of gallons out of the water supply annually.
• Farmers are particularly impacted by fracking water use as they compete with the deep-pocketed oil and gas industry for water, especially in drought-stricken regions of the country.

Water Used for Fracking, Selected States
State Total Water Used since 2005 (billion gallons)
Arkansas 26
Colorado 26
New Mexico 1.3
North Dakota 12
Ohio 1.4
Pennsylvania 30
Texas 110
West Virginia 17

Complete and utter insanity. Nuts.

tabatha (anonymous profile)
May 5, 2014 at 6:12 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I have to agree with Tabatha on the water usage in the fracking process, but she's way off of the mark in groundwater contamination.

Botany (anonymous profile)
May 5, 2014 at 6:34 a.m. (Suggest removal)

And sorry, there's no radioactive waste in fracking. Let's get some reality here.

Botany (anonymous profile)
May 5, 2014 at 6:40 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Do you idiots who say that X causes no harm ever use google? All you have to do is google terms like "fracking radioactive" and see if you're right or wrong. If you did that you'd find you're wrong. Fracking has caused water to become radioactive. You people shouldn't post such stupid, idiotic things on the internet. You're misleading other stupid people. And mind you, stupid people are allowed to vote.

nitrogen (anonymous profile)
May 5, 2014 at 8:30 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Both sides can win by using a pure-propane technology for fracking. Google eCorp International. This is a closed system that only uses propane (which is already a component of natural gas). Contamination of groundwater acquifers is from 2 sources: spilling of the contaminated water on the ground as it flows back to the surface after the pressure pumping the frac. Second, poor cementing of the casing as the well is drilled vertically...thus allowing gas to migrate up the side of the wellbore and into a water acquifer. This can occur on ANY well drilled and would have nothing to do with the fracking operation.

5rhineses (anonymous profile)
May 5, 2014 at 11:16 a.m. (Suggest removal)


Last year it came out that EPA had evidence of contamination in Dimock & covered it up. An internal presentation showed methane released during "fracking" operations resulting in "significant" &possibly long-term damage to water quality of a drinking-water source for 19 families.

July 27 LA Times, reported internal EPA documents detailing contamination were given to the highest levels of the agency staff in spring 2012. Yet EPA closed investigation a few months later, saying it was no longer necessary for residents to be given alternative, safe, drinking-water. BUT privately, residents were told to NOT resume drinking the water. So mainstream press widely reported that EPA found the water in Dimock "safe" to drink. That wasn't full story.

Industry say findings of contamination have been debunked. Industry lies re extent of spills, & even their existence. Between that & the above looks like political shenanigans more than conclusive debunking

Alberta Canada 2009; From Energy Resources Conservation Board study of CNRL re Primrose from 2009 leak.
"Bitumen emulsion & anomalously high pressures were discovered at 4 of the Bonnyville Aquifer monitoring wells located along the interpreted trace of the surface fissures"

Re 2013 cyclic steam related leaks (4) in Alberta, industry press release states,"One affected location, which is now contained, is a 1.5 meter deep, non-fish bearing, shallow slough that does not flow in or interact with other water bodies,"

Locals respond "There is a stream of lakes all the way up to Beaver Lake that are interconnected by the groundwater. So unless CNRL has a plug, they cannot state..this water is not going to impact human beings."

There's also this; Independent water tests find contamination, industry settles, in exchange for non disclosure agreements. If there were no evidence of contamination they wouldn't need to silence people.

&Texas court just awarded a family 3 million for damages from air &water contamination from nearby frack operations..
For a jury to make this call, there had to be damning evidence.

"Testing showed drilling chemicals in Lisa’s blood and lungs that match chemicals detected by the state in air testing outside her home."

You can see independent results and timeline here

morgainele (anonymous profile)
May 5, 2014 at 11:27 a.m. (Suggest removal)

There is natural radiation in the oil socks that are used to filter liquid from fracking operations. These oil socks must be disposed of in a safe manner. They are sometimes illegally dumped in North Dakota.

byronsnake (anonymous profile)
May 5, 2014 at 11:31 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Tabatha: how much water is used to produce a windmill for electric generation. The steel production, transportation and installation all produced CO2 and use huge amounts of water. If you calculate the water usage per watt of energy produced it is only slightly better than fracking but much, much higher cost.

nitrogen: Google is not a source of truth - it's a search engine that indexes web pages filled with other idiots mis-information and lies. The fact that you "scream" that people should just go to Google to get the truth means you're the same name you call others. What a joke.

JaggedJax: Citation 1-4 = no fact based information or study to refute any of what I stated. All industry (including solar, wind, etc.) have some low level of dumb-ass moves by people not throwing things in the right trash can or spilling something - so being reasonable, I am excluding those events that are similar in fracking to other energy production pollution.

realitycheck88 (anonymous profile)
May 5, 2014 at 1:06 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I couldn't wait to sign that petition. But I hope the Supes will enact this ban first, as it's not always smart to leave things to the voters. Look what happened with State Water and Saving the Oaks up in Santa Ynez. Voters can be bamboozled so easily.

chilldrinfthenight (anonymous profile)
May 5, 2014 at 1:17 p.m. (Suggest removal)

3. All the fracking currently in SB county uses the same amount of water as a single golf course---My comment:
Comparing the use of water used on golf courses to fracked water is like comparing apples to toxins. Maybe what jackax meant to say was fracking to Fukushima? I agree that there is water better spent than for golf courses, or for that matter, perfect lawns--But spraying a large quantity of grass with water, does not take the methane to drill and shatter shale deep in the earth's surface. Watering a golf course doesn't take 9 barrels of water to bring up 1 barrel of oil--or millions of gallons of potable water for just one well sight. The watering of a golf course doesn't send 600 or so hazardous carcinogens into our water supply with half-lives we are not told about either. Watering a golf course doesn't cause more ground shifting and earthquakes. Watering a golf course doesn't release radon and radioactive elements into our water supply. And watering a golf course doesn't return poisons into the earth, risking our ground water, or poisoning our water supply. I'd say Jackax is drinking more than red bull, and a lot more than coolaid. And whatever he's drinking, I'm guessing he's bought more than his share of it. Or perhaps, he's just drinking some fracked water.--grove

grove (anonymous profile)
May 5, 2014 at 2:15 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Actually golf course runoff can be high in nitrites, phosphorus and pesticides and can be pretty bad for the environment. Some courses manage their pesticide and nutrient levels pretty well, or better yet go completely organic. I have no data on Santa Barbara golf courses in particular.

As far as earthquakes, we don't know if fracking helps trigger smaller earthquakes sooner which may prevent larger ones later or if they increase overall earthquake activity. Since it is possible fracking may actually reduce the danger from earthquakes I don't know that it is fair to ban it based on the possibility.

loonpt (anonymous profile)
May 5, 2014 at 3:40 p.m. (Suggest removal)

It's official: the lib-dem enviro wackies are officially off their last rocker with grove as their crazy leader.

Are you kidding? Is this a joke?

The 'carcinogens' are the same household name cleaning products under your sink and...

...account for less the 1% by volume in fracking which injects the water....

...thousands of feet below any water table which for 50+ yrs of fracking has not once (not a SINGLE time) polluted anyone's drinking water and...

...has resulted in lowering our CO2 emissions for the entire US back to 1998 levels in just a few years! More progress than 45 years of environmental "movements" x 10!! as well as...

... Lowered the cost of energy for millions of the working class in this country and reduced the need for foreign wars to secure foreign oil and....

... All of this using American know how, innovation and workers.

But unless we ban fracking and stop all of the above, we're idiots.

Gosh I feel so dumb!

realitycheck88 (anonymous profile)
May 5, 2014 at 8:23 p.m. (Suggest removal)

why is it you liberals all think with your HEARTS and not your MINDS....

Why don't you put your BRAINS to work for once...and realize that there has never EVER been ONE incident where tracking has contaminated ground water or surface water for that mater..


thomas592003 (anonymous profile)
May 6, 2014 at 9:52 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Due to our geology, fracking may not be as much of an immediate concern in Santa Barbara County as acidizing and steam injection. All three are covered by the initiative.

Fracking & acidizing use large amounts of toxic chemicals. Wells are typically acidized with hydrochloric acid or
hydrofluoric acid. The latter is one of the most hazardous industrial chemicals in use. (Seen Breaking Bad?) In the Monterey Shale, some companies are using a solution of up to 30% HF acid.

Over 600 different chemicals have been identified in fracking operations. Some are benign, but many of them highly toxic and carcinogenic. Yummy stuff like benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene & xylene. Up to 400,000 gallons may be used in a single well. 30-70% of it typically stays in the ground.

Wastewater that is recovered from wells must be disposed of somewhere. In many places, is often stored in open pits before being trucked away. Spills release this toxic cocktail into our surface water, groundwater and soil. In North Dakota &
Pennsylvania, thousands of spills and intentional releases have been reported in the past few years. Our wastewater
treatment plants are not designed to deal with this fluid, so it is usually pumped into “wastewater injection wells” and left there forever...where it can migrate through natural fractures in the rock into our groundwater, perhaps decades after the oil is gone.

"4 states confirm water pollution from drilling". USA Today. (

Other references:
Earthworks Action & the CDC.
High Country News.
The Nation.

capnhairdo (anonymous profile)
May 20, 2014 at 10:23 p.m. (Suggest removal)

If you don't think that fracking has ever caused any dangerous pollution in any watersheds, you should start by watching Gas Land 2 for yourself. I've read the debunkings and they are not convincing at all, there absolutely have been some water tables that have been polluted from fracking.

Part of the reason why fracking fluid might contain radiation or chemicals that may not even be present in normal fracking fluid is because the fracking fluid is reused over and over. So I would say it might be less water intensive than some estimates, but less water intensive may also mean more hazardous to the water sheds which makes it.....potentially MORE water intensive depending on the rate of well leaks.

Now if the oil companies as well as all of the energy producers ensured that they cleaned up all of their messes or pay complete restitution to all of the property owners and stake-holders (BP........I'm talkin' to you big guy!!) then we would have a level playing field where energy could compete by reducing the profit that energy companies take in for their pollution output against the profits they receive from the energy they produce. So the cheapest energy ends up being not only the most available but the cleanest energy sources.

Solar panels are expensive because the materials are difficult to mine and manufacture and their energy output is relatively low. They also require technology, and all of the brainpower, manpower, destroyed mountains and energy that goes into producing a solar panel shows up in the cost. Prices tell a tale and all of those expenses, or costs, and their value in terms of currency in a free market will be equal to the costs of other energies in terms of currency... so every dollar cost it takes the pollution to be cleaned up or contained assuming it is being done 100% indefinitely would be equal across the board for all terms of dollars...different energies will have different dollar amounts that will subtract from their profits.

So the point I am making is that if energy companies cleaned up the watersheds or compensated the owners fairly it would come out of their profits just like how solar panels and all other forms of energy would come out of their profits and you could measure that against energy output and see what is best.


loonpt (anonymous profile)
May 20, 2014 at 11:42 p.m. (Suggest removal)


My concern is that this whole "Shale Boom" may be the next bubble, the last bubble being the housing bubble that cause the last recession and the bubble before that was the tech bubble of '99. We may be in the midst of a "Shale Bubble". The interesting thing is that companies like Halliburton (Dick Cheney used to be the CEO) who profited heavily off of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is now profiting by selling all of the fracking equipment. They don't care if it's actually profitable, they only care about selling the equipment. The companies doing the drilling are full of equity so they don't see the losses that I'm seeing reported as a big deal in the short term, but not all of these wells last very long as you're kinda scraping the bottom of the bong, I mean barrel.

Junk Bonds Fuel the Shale Boom

"Any industry needs profits to survive. The oil shale boom is so far finding profits elusive even though production has greatly increased domestic oil production. Last year the industry (including drillers and suppliers) spent $60 billion more than they took in in revenues. How long can that be sustained- especially given that a fracking well starts to decline after only about a year in production? That also requires more and more wells being drilled just to maintain current productivity which costs more money. Lately it has been surviving on junk bonds."

loonpt (anonymous profile)
May 20, 2014 at 11:44 p.m. (Suggest removal)

With booms always come busts. We already know that this new boom won’t last. Both the International Energy Agency and our own Energy Information Administration have warned that America’s oil production will peak again before 2020 and decline thereafter.

Shale oil is not a long-term solution for energy independence:

"Getting at tight oil requires a lot of wells, because production at each well falls off pretty quickly. There’s not much data from Monterey yet...but data from other tight oil plays shows that the depletion rate is high, on the order of 80 or 90 percent the first year. 'After seven or eight years, wells will have produced over 60 percent of their recoverable reserves. Therefore, you have to keep drilling like hell just to maintain production, and drill even more to increase it.'

"When petroleum geologist and researcher Arthur Berman looked at actual well data, it turned out oil and gas companies had systematically overstated shale well productivity. With wells falling off quickly, and most early fracking funded by debt, producers are under huge pressure to keep digging new wells."

-- Grist.

capnhairdo (anonymous profile)
May 21, 2014 at 6:38 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"U.S. officials cut estimate of recoverable Monterey Shale oil by 96%

Federal energy authorities have slashed by 96% the estimated amount of recoverable oil buried in California's vast Monterey Shale deposits, deflating its potential as a national "black gold mine" of petroleum.

Just 600 million barrels of oil can be extracted with existing technology, far below the 13.7 billion barrels once thought recoverable from the jumbled layers of subterranean rock spread across much of Central California, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said.

The new estimate, expected to be released publicly next month, is a blow to the nation's oil future and to projections that an oil boom would bring as many as 2.8 million new jobs to California and boost tax revenue by $24.6 billion annually."

loonpt (anonymous profile)
May 21, 2014 at 9:17 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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