Big Oil, Big Pressure

Recently, I and other North County residents have written letters opposing dramatic and dangerous expansion of steam injection/oil extraction projects proposed by big oil consortiums for the Santa Maria area. They plan to put 760-plus new high-risk wells in aging facilities, posing significant pollution risk to our Santa Maria River and San Antonio Creek drinking water aquifers.

AERA, ERG, and PetroRock are spending millions to gain the support of local organization for their projects in front of the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors. Big Oil is quick to counter any sign of opposition with false claims of their supposed peerless safety and environmental record.

Working with County Health and Fire departments, I have responded to dozens of oil and gas releases for 32 years. Oil-spill prevention and spill cleanup are often poorly implemented as are oil handling practices in general. All the oil companies involved claimed that they had excellent safety and environmental compliance records, even as we watched oil flowing into creek beds and sour gas wafting over farm workers and residents. It is human nature to put our best face forward, but our actions often belie our words.

When the asbestos industry covered our homes and workplaces in efficient, durable asbestos insulation, they assured us of its safety. The same with the lead industry, when they put lead in gasoline and house paint, and when the mercury industry put that poison into our medicines, rivers, and household products. Their products were safe and their environmental compliance was excellent, until they were found not to be.

So let’s learn from this history. Let’s stop the expansion of these dangerous fossil fuel projects and promote the building of safe and renewable wind and solar infrastructure in the North County.

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