AERA Energy (owned by Exxon/Shell) has proposed to expand oil and gas production in Cat Canyon, southeast of Santa Maria, with up to 296 new wells.

The company’s spokesperson Rick Rust has stated that the project uses steam injection to remove the heavy crude oil. What he did not say is that this process requires drilling through the Santa Maria groundwater basin, then injecting the chemical-filled wastewater into the ground, compromising the health of the aquifer on which 200,000 people in 12 cities rely for water. The aquifer is also vital to agriculture, a primary income base for North Santa Barbara County.

The “hundreds of good-paying jobs” touted by Rust is an inflated number, multiplied by the life of the project, which is projected to be 35 years; direct employment in any one year will be far less than that. Additionally, oil jobs are dangerous operations whose workers will likely be driven in from Kern or elsewhere, whereas renewable energy employs locals. In Santa Barbara County, there are eight times more jobs in clean energy than in the oil industry.

AERA’s Draft Environmental Impact Report will be reviewed by the county in Santa Maria on January 17, and will go to the Board of Supervisors in early 2019.

Write them (,,,, and tell them to put the health of 450,000 people in Santa Barbara County ahead of the profits of Big Oil. The Cat Canyon project is a short-term play profiting a few special interests at the long-term expense of the rest of us.


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