Inside Aera
Environment, Operations Dec 17, 2018

Aera’s East Cat Canyon project advances with draft EIR

Santa Barbara County Planning Department releases the document after four years of analyzing the project’s potential impacts

Aera Energy’s East Cat Canyon oil field redevelopment project has moved forward with the Nov. 30 release of a long-awaited document known as a draft environmental impact report (DEIR).

Prepared by the Santa Barbara County Planning and Development Department, the DEIR represents more than four years of work to thoroughly analyze the project’s potential impacts to human health and the environment.

“This is an important step for our project,” said Rick Rust, Aera’s Santa Barbara County representative. “Our goal is to provide the energy California needs while protecting people and the environment.”

Aera public affairs representative Rick Rust provides a tour in East Cat Canyon.

The draft EIR stems from Aera’s 2014 application for a land-use permit to redevelop the rural East Cat Canyon oilfield, located about 10 miles southeast of Santa Maria. Changes in technology and economics renewed Aera’s interest in re-establishing the field, which produced oil for nearly 100 years before being decommissioned in the 1990s.

At peak production, the field is expected to produce about 10,000 barrels of oil a day. The project will include 141 oil wells and a similar number of wells for steam injection, water injection and observation. It also includes a new natural gas pipeline and electrical line.

Moving through the process

The process for the draft EIR involved input and comments from numerous federal, state and local government agencies. It also included a lengthy review as required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

During the draft EIR process, participants created an alternative footprint that requires roughly 94 percent of the project site to remain undisturbed by development. The reduced footprint sharply lowers to about 1 percent the number of oak trees that can be removed from the site. Among the project’s benefits is a 500-acre permanent conservation area.

The next step is a stringent public review of the draft EIR and opportunity for written comments. The County will respond to the comments it receives and prepare a final EIR which would go before the Planning Commission for a vote on the final EIR and Aera’s permit.

Generating new jobs, tax revenues

The UC Santa Barbara Economic Forecast Project calculates the economic impact of Aera’s East Cat Canyon project at over $1 billion, including construction, drilling and operating jobs. In addition, local businesses are expected to bring in new income from the oilfield’s recharged activities.

“We are proud to be associated with a project that will generate locally produced energy, at a facility built by local labor, that will create local jobs going forward,” said Michael G. Lopez, business manager of U.A. Plumbers and Pipefitters Union Local 114. “We enthusiastically look forward to Aera’s arrival in North Santa Barbara County.”

Aera’s project also will generate new tax revenues for the area’s public services.

“Aera will become one of the largest property taxpayers in Santa Barbara County,” said Neil Gowing, president of the Santa Barbara County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association. “That’s new tax money that is desperately needed to fund vital services like public safety and our local schools.”

Learn more about Aera’s East Cat Canyon project at https://www.aeraenergy.com/operations/east-cat-canyon/.