As a geologist, I am frequently in the field drilling and installing groundwater wells in different parts of California, including Santa Barbara. Though the groundwater beneath many of these sites was contaminated decades ago, the remediation or “clean up” continues to this day.
I am reminded of what Annie Leonard said during the 50th Anniversary of the Santa Barbara Oil Spill commemoration in Santa Barbara last January: “What do we do when we find ourselves in a hole? Stop digging.”
The City of Santa Barbara does not drink from its groundwater. But Santa Maria does. The water that sits beneath Cat Canyon connects to the Santa Maria groundwater basin, which supplies thousands of people with drinking water. This is same basin that ERG, AERA and Petro Rock oil companies want to drill through to install 750 new oil wells.
Allowing these wells to be installed and oil to be extracted under the proposed high pressure steam injection drilling methods would put the safety of drinking water at extreme risk.
I know too well that blowouts in oil and gas wells happen all too often. I have been on these sites. I have seen the damage.
Allowing these wells to be installed would be a disaster and a national embarrassment, given that we are in the county in which the environmental movement was born. Not only would we keep digging ourselves into a hole, we would guarantee a darker and more dismal future for our children and future generations to inherit.
Even more threatening, is the fact that the planet is warming at an unnaturally fast rate because humans are burning fossil fuels.
People, plants and animals are already suffering the effects of climate change with more extreme droughts, bigger fires, stronger storms and sea level rise, to name a few. Please do not be fooled in thinking these changes in climate and weather are normal. They are not.
Please do not be fooled in thinking an “accident” won’t happen in Cat Canyon. It will.
For the sake of your children and the future of this planet, please do not let this happen. Instead of drilling for oil in the face of mankind’s greatest threat — climate change — let’s invest and support alternative, renewable energy projects that provide safer, steadier jobs and greatly diminish the risk of further warming our planet and contaminating our environment.
Camille Collett is a geologist who works in environmental consulting.