Media Advisory, June 3, 2019


Lauren Packard, Center for Biological Diversity, (650) 303-5645,
Abraham Melendrez, Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy, (805) 253-3686,
Tara Messing, Environmental Defense Center, (410) 446-3455,
Ana Rosa Rizo-Centino, Food & Water Watch, (213) 479-0481,
Jon Ullman, Los Padres Sierra Club, (305) 283-6070,

Rally to Oppose Dangerous Oil-industry Injections in Santa Maria Aquifers

SANTA MARIA, Calif.— Santa Barbara County residents and environmental advocates will rally Wednesday against a proposed aquifer exemption that could pollute groundwater and drastically expand oil drilling in the county. The rally will precede the state’s public meeting on the proposal.

Exempting portions of the Sisquoc and Monterey formations in the Cat Canyon Oil Field from federal drinking water protections, as proposed, would allow oil companies to ramp up extreme-extraction techniques and turn the aquifers into permanent disposal sites for toxic oil-waste fluid. The exemption could facilitate the drilling of more than 700 wells, an expansion that would triple onshore oil production in the county.

The proposal would allow steam injection as well as massive underground injections of oil-waste fluid, which can contain high levels of benzene and other cancer-causing chemicals. The U.S. Geological Survey recently found evidence that oil and gas development has contaminated high-quality groundwater in the neighboring Orcutt oil field.

What: Rally against proposed Cat Canyon Oil Field aquifer exemption

When: Wednesday, June 5; rally at 3:30 p.m., hearing at 4 p.m.

Where: Veterans' Memorial Community Center, 313 W Tunnell St, Santa Maria, CA 93458

Who: Representatives of the Center for Biological Diversity, Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy, Environmental Defense Center, Food & Water Watch, Safe Energy Now North County, Santa Barbara County Action Network, Sierra Club and other organizations will be on hand for media interviews.

California’s Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources — in consultation with the State Water Resources Control Board and the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board — is considering recommending that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency exempt portions of the Sisquoc and Monterey formations in the area of the Cat Canyon Oil Field from the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The aquifer exemption approval could facilitate a number of large-scale oil projects pending before Santa Barbara County, including the proposed drilling of 296 wells in East Cat Canyon, 187 wells in West Cat Canyon and 231 wells in the north central portion of Cat Canyon. If the state’s oil division declines to submit the exemption application or the Water Board withholds final concurrence, all or a substantial portion of these projects may need to scale back because oil companies would be restricted to existing injection zones for oil-waste disposal.

Wednesday’s rally focuses on the aquifer-exemption proposal, but fits into a larger campaign by dozens of health, environmental and community groups in Santa Barbara County opposing expansion at the Cat Canyon Oil Field.

Public comments on the proposal are due by June 20, 2019.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (“CAUSE”) works to build grassroots power to invoke social, economic and environmental justice for the people of California's Central Coast Region through policy research, leadership development, organizing and advocacy.

The Environmental Defense Center is a public interest law firm that protects and enhances the environment through education, advocacy and legal action.

Food & Water Watch mobilizes regular people to build political power to move bold & uncompromised solutions to the most pressing food, water and climate problems of our time. We work to protect people’s health, communities and democracy from the growing destructive power of the most powerful economic interests.

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.5 million members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying and legal action. The Sierra Club Los Padres Chapter serves Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties.