Environmental Groups Keep Close Watch on Onshore Energy

KCOY News, May 10, 2013, By Keith Carls

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY - A surge in onshore oil extraction on the Central Coast has the industry pointing to immediate economic benefits while environmental groups and other skeptics are wondering out loud, at what cost?

Oil and gas companies maintain their industry is creating jobs, raising badly-needed revenue for local and state government, operating in a safer, cleaner and more efficient manner than ever before and working under the strictest environmental regulations and oversight in the world.

"These are compelling arguments", says Ken Hough, Executive Director of the Santa Barbara County Action Network, or SBCAN, "but why not also mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and make it as safe as we can?"

Hough says SBCAN has added its voice to a louder chorus of concern being expressed about the surge in onshore oil and gas development on the Central Coast.

"It looks like there's plenty of oil embedded in the shale but are we going to spend our technical resources to extract every less drop of oil out of that shale", Hough asks, "or are we going to spend our resources, including government subsidies, to further the development of renewable energy?"

Hough says there is growing concern about hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" and its short term and long term impacts to groundwater supplies that are critically important to agriculture.

"It doesn't seem right to have the potential to poison our groundwater when there are things that can be done in the way of more regulation", Hough says, "I'm glad that our elected officials at the county level and state level have been paying attention to this."

Hough points to proposed legislation from local State Senator Hannah Beth Jackson who wants to further regulate fracking as a potential toxic waste.

The energy industry argues fracking is an extraction process that has a proven safe track record for decades.

Senator Jackson's fracking bill, which would give oversight authority to the California Department of Toxic Substances Control, made it out of the Senate Environmental Quality Committee with a 6-3 vote.