Sunday, June 7, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 14

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on April 8th, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 6 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 21, Issue 6

PetroRock withdraws application for Cat Canyon oil project

By Zac Ezzone

After putting its plans to drill hundreds of oil wells in the Cat Canyon Oil Field on hold about a year ago, the oil and gas company PetroRock has abandoned the project.

Errin Briggs, supervisor of the Santa Barbara County Planning and Development Department’s Energy, Minerals, and Compliance Division, said the company withdrew its application for the project on March 27. The company planned on installing 231 new wells in the oil field, which is located about 10 to 15 miles southeast of Santa Maria. 

PetroRock didn’t return calls for comment prior to press time. 

Briggs said the company didn’t offer a reason for putting the project on hold a year ago and then later withdrawing its application. But, he speculated that significant reductions in oil prices because of COVID-19 and the state’s stringent regulatory process may have been factors in the decision. 

“All of our producers have more of a long-term view, so temporary drops or spikes doesn’t factor into long-term thinking, but I think given the context of oil and gas development in California … and the significant drop [in oil prices], it doesn’t paint a rosy picture of oil and gas development,” Briggs said.

In a joint statement, representatives from the Environmental Defense Center, Santa Barbara County Action Network, and the Sierra Club Los Padres Chapter—which have all pushed back on this and other oil projects planned in the county—took some credit for the company withdrawing its application.

“The termination of the PetroRock application is a major victory for our environment and public health, and demonstrates the power of the people to dictate the clean energy future we want for our county,” Environmental Defense Center Staff Attorney Tara Messing said in the statement. “We must maintain this momentum to put even more pressure on the remaining two projects proposed by Aera and TerraCore, which pose unacceptable risks to the county residents’ air, drinking water, and public safety.”

The two projects Messing referenced are moving forward at different paces. TerraCore—which purchased ERG and took over its West Cat Canyon Revitalization Project in June 2019—paused the project’s progress through the county planning process shortly after acquiring the plans. During a county Planning Commission meeting in August 2019, a representative from TerraCore said the company is reworking the project to further mitigate the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that would be generated by its production.

Meanwhile, in October 2019 Aera Energy proposed an alternative to its East Cat Canyon Oil Field Redevelopment Project that would reduce its number of wells from 296 to 189, along with other changes. Briggs said the county is working with the company to finalize an environmental impact review that would be released to the public and go before the county Planning Commission. He said this should happen within the next few months. 

In an interview with the Sun about Aera Energy’s project alternative, company representative Rick Rust said this reduction in oil wells is a result of the company listening to community concerns and adjusting accordingly.

“We’re making changes,” Rust said. “Where there are concerns, especially like this with the well count, [the county] asked if we could make it a smaller footprint. We heard what they said.”

Weekly Poll
What do you think about Aera Energy canceling its project in Cat Canyon?

It's a victory for the environment!
It's a loss of a lot of potential jobs that are needed in North County.
I'm all for renewable energy, but we still need oil and gas.
The county should never approve another oil and gas project.

| Poll Results

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