Input from the community leads to environmental improvement in the proposed project
When the Santa Barbara County community spoke, Aera listened.
Last month, after input from area stakeholders and county planning staff, Aera made a major change at our East Cat Canyon redevelopment project southeast of Santa Maria.
The project plan now calls for 189 oil wells, compared to the original 296. The decrease represents a 36% well reduction at the site.
“After listening to concerns expressed by some in the Santa Barbara community about the total number of wells at our project, we asked our engineers to find an innovative way to pare down the number of wells while maintaining production goals,” said Rick Rust, Aera’s Santa Barbara representative.
“Our engineering team rose to the challenge and developed a new well configuration, which allowed us to reduce more than 100 wells from the original proposal,” he added.
That reduction helps Aera deliver additional environmental benefits, said Rust, including:
- Reduced air emissions
- Reduced freshwater usage
- Minimized visual impacts
- Reduced wildlife habitat impacts, particularly for potential upland traverse habitat for the endangered California Tiger Salamander upland habitat
The change earned positive feedback from Cat Canyon rancher Rebecca Gowing.
“I’m not surprised that Aera is addressing community concerns by reducing the number of wells,” Gowing said. “Aera has been a good neighbor and good listener for many years, and they’ve always responded to the neighborhood’s needs.”
Not the first change
Reducing well counts is just the latest of several actions taken by Aera to address community concerns. Among them:
- Reducing impacts to oak trees, grading and overall project footprint by 45%.
- Ensuring that more than 94% of the project site will remain undisturbed.
- Dedicating 503 acres as a permanently protected conservation area for wildlife and woodland habitat enhancement preservation.
- Using new compressed natural gas (CNG) engine-powered tanker trucks that emit 80% fewer smog forming emissions of nitrogen oxides than diesel trucks.
What East Cat Canyon will provide
Aera is redeveloping the 100-year-old field to produce the oil that California needs while, at the same time, protecting people and the environment. The project is awaiting permit approval.
“We expect a decision from the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission in early 2020,” said Rust.
The East Cat Canyon site covers 2,100 acres in a remote area of northern Santa Barbara County. Once in production, the field is expected to produce up to 10,000 barrels of oil per day.
The operation will not use hydraulic fracturing or use fresh water for steam. A proposed 10.6 acre-feet of fresh water will be used annually to irrigate plants, suppress fire and control dust.
“Required safety systems will protect surface and groundwater,” said Rust. “The County’s Air Pollution Control District found that the project would not exceed any ambient air-quality standards. The project will meet or exceed all state and county requirements for greenhouse gas emissions.”
The oilfield is expected to generate $1.3 billion in economic activity, Rust noted. The field will also contribute $128 million to $143 million annually in property taxes and more than $48 million in state and federal taxes.