The majority of oil wells in the county today do not use the high-intensity techniques (fracking, acidizing, and steam injection) banned by Measure P.
So why are oil companies spending millions of dollars to defeat it?
Chevron contributed $2.5 million to a state PAC fighting Measure P. The company is ramping up use of high-intensity production techniques, despite the fact that its own engineers report extremely high ruptures and casing failures. An oil field worker in Kern County was sucked underground by one of the unexpected sinkholes from a steam injection operation and boiled to death, for which the company paid a $350 fine.
Aera Energy, a joint venture of Shell and Exxon, contributed $2 million to the same front-group. Aera was sued for $8.5 million for polluting groundwater and killing off farmland in Kern County, and now the company has stated intentions for hundreds of new wells using the same techniques in Santa Barbara County.
Texas-based Freeport McMoRan ponied up over $460,000 to defeat Measure P. It recently got a permit to drill test wells near the Lompoc aquifer that provides 100 percent of the water for all of Lompoc, Mission Hills, and Vandenberg Village. The Vandenberg Village Community Services District recently appealed that project because of concerns about potential for water contamination, but it’s going forward. The district is right to be worried. Freeport is best known for owning the largest gold and copper mine in the world in Indonesia, which has sent a billion tons of waste down river according to the New York Times.
Another major contributor to efforts to defeat Measure P is ERG Resources. Recently purchased by a Beijing-based mining company, this company owns 19,668 acres in Santa Barbara County and plans to ramp up oil production rapidly, drilling directly through the Santa Maria aquifer. To reach its goal of 20,000 barrels a day by 2015, the company would likely need to drill over 1,000 wells. It had had 24 violations, including six spills, in its first year of operation.
Other contributors include Venoco, which has fracked both on and offshore, Santa Maria Energy, which has stated an intention to drill 7,700 new wells, Pacific Coast Energy, which has documented well failures resulting in numerous seeps in its current operations, and Vaquero, owned by the same family that owns the Casmalia toxic waste dump, now a costly superfund clean-up site.
These are not companies we can trust to protect our water, air, and health. Passing Measure P will allow the current oil production status quo, but it will protect us from this massive expansion using highly risky, polluting, and extreme techniques.