Santa Barbara County Fracking

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is a process used to extract oil or natural gas from shale and other deep geologic formations. Fracking is under intense scrutiny nationally, and fracked wells with poor construction have been linked to groundwater contamination and other environmental impacts. In California, it is the responsibility of local governments, alongside the Division of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), Regional Water Quality Control Boards and other state agencies, to regulate oil and gas production.

Background: Venoco fracked two wells near Los Alamos in 2011, spurring the County to “clarify” its Land Use & Development Code to specifically require (discretionary) permits and environmental review for any proposal to frack. There has been no fracking in Santa Barbara County since. However, fracking continues to be of concern in neighboring jurisdictions (for example, Ventura and Kern Counties), statewide and even offshore.

A group called the Water Worriers recently completed gathering signatures for the Healthy Air and Water Initiative which would ban fracking and other well stimulation techniques in Santa Barbara County. The group was successful in gathering the 13,000 signatures required to place the initiative on the ballot in November. Most environmental groups, including the Valley Alliance, have endorsed the measure.

Status: On May 20, the Board of Supervisors held a hearing on the item and requested preparation of a report to address economic, planning and other issues. The report was presented to the Board on June 13, at which time the Board placed the measure on the 2014
November ballot.

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