Oil company should thank county supervisors

Santa Maria Energy won approval from the Board of Supervisors to extract oil from 136 wells in the Orcutt Hills. Yet, you'd think the project had been denied.

The company got its project. The number of wells was not reduced. The amount of oil they could extract was not changed. They weren't even required to do no harm. They were, however, required to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions further than they wanted, which meant they would make less profit. They still stand to make millions of dollars mining a non-renewable local natural resource. A denial, no doubt, would have cost them millions.

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Economy, environment go hand-in-hand

Last week, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors upheld the appeal of the Planning Commission's approval of the Santa Maria Energy project, setting tougher standards for greenhouse-gas emissions.

As one of the appellants, the reader might expect that I came home and popped open the champagne. I didn't. Instead, I've been giving thought to next steps and reflecting on all the heartfelt comments I heard from 110 concerned residents of our region.

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Using people as a buffer not a good idea

Santa Maria planning commissioners said “no” to new senior housing and “yes” to employment-generating land-use designations in a recent straw poll.

In an informal request by Coastal Community Builders, commissioners were asked whether they would be in favor of changing the zoning on part of Area 9, a total of 884 acres between A Street and Black Road, and between Betteravia Road and the railroad tracks.

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Answering questions about climate change

Human-caused climate change - myth or reality?

Why are we even debating this? And why is it important to us on the Central Coast?

For the past 100 years, scientists have believed that burning fossil fuels might increase Earth's average surface temperature. Decades of research has proven this, according to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the organization set up by Abraham Lincoln in 1863 to advise the government on science, engineering and medicine. Members serve in the organization only if they have distinguished themselves and continue to conduct original research.

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Implement plan for sustainable communities

Congratulations to the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments for adopting the 2040 Regional Transportation Plan & Sustainable Communities Strategy.

Now, cities and county, we hope you'll follow its principles.

SBCAG recognized how important land-use decisions are, not only to the efficient operation of the transportation system, but also to the environment, public health, safety, social equity and a thriving economy.

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SM Energy: Mitigate, move forward

Santa Maria Energy is champing at the bit to get final approval to expand by 110 wells its 26-well pilot project in the Orcutt Hills.

That stands to reason. The expanded project is expected to produce more than 3,000 barrels of crude oil a day. With prices at around $100 a barrel, there is potential daily gross revenue to the company of over $300,000.

That approval is delayed because the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission directed staff to analyze stricter greenhouse-gas emissions standards for the project, to reduce the impact on climate change.

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The effects of fracking -- a realistic look

            In a recent column, James Murr sounded the alarm about the potential for renewed oil production within the city of Santa Maria. He referenced a Times article about Area 9 being considered for oil development and cited an article in another publication that reported on hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” contaminating aquifers and triggering earthquakes.

            Murr has good reason to be concerned.

            In a letter to the editor, another writer said Murr need not worry because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (by 2009) had not documented any cases of groundwater contamination related to fracking; there are ample regulations in place to protect our environment from the impacts of oil and gas production; and the Monterey shale underlying the Santa Maria Valley is already naturally fractured.

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Taking part in the process

The recent Times’ editorial, “Help draw blueprint for future,” may have left readers with the impression that local residents are disinterested in the long-range transportation plan prepared by the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments, because just one person came to a recent workshop.

The workshop was, in fact, a public hearing, and was held near the end of a long planning process. Although just one person testified, a total of 11 people attended the hearing.

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Funding a commitment to renewable energy

In my May 10, 2013 Santa Maria Times editorial about proposed new oil drilling in the Orcutt Hills, I wrote that renewable energy should be subsidized as the primary energy source for our future. Another editorial writer in The Times asked how this would be funded.

Answer: the same way energy technologies of the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries were funded – by the federal and state governments. As the emerging technology of the 21st Century, renewables should be subsidized the way other energy technologies have been throughout U.S. history.

In the late 1700s, Congress enacted a tariff to protect the fledgling coal industry from British imports, giving American producers a major cost advantage. Pennsylvania exempted coal from taxation, publicized its advantages, and conducted geological surveys showing companies where it was located. By 1837, 14 states had followed Pennsylvania’s lead.

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Energy: Can we find common ground?

          The Economic Alliance of Northern Santa Barbara recently hosted the California Energy Summit in Buellton. Environmental advocates rubbed shoulders with oil producers.

          One panel focused on renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, and efficiencies that reduce the use of fossil fuels. Some speakers and members of the audience argued against subsidizing development of alternative fuels, instead favoring increased production of fossil fuels.

          Many of us used to think we needed to wean ourselves from fossil fuels because our supply would last only a few decades. As we learned at the Buellton conference, the supply is greater than ever, because of relatively new enhanced-extraction techniques, such as hydraulic fracturing and cyclic steaming. A lot of it is here in the United States, especially in the Monterey shale of the Central Coast and San Joaquin Valley.

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Santa Barbara County Action Network
Santa Barbara County Action Network (SBCAN) works to promote social and economic justice, to preserve our environmental and agricultural resources, and to create sustainable communities.