A grassroots group called Santa Barbara County Water Guardians kicked off a petition drive Tuesday for an initiative banning high-intensity petroleum operations such as hydraulic fracturing in Santa Barbara County.
The group hopes to get the initiative on the November ballot, or approved by county supervisors.
The initiative seeks to prohibit land uses related to hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” cyclic steam injection and other high-intensity petroleum operations, according to a group spokesman.
With the Registrar’s certification of the required 13,200 signatures, the county Board of Supervisors can elect to adopt the initiative or put the measure on the ballot for voters to decide in November.
The signatures must be gathered by May 7.
In the initiative, the group notes high-intensity operations differ from “low-intensity,” which usually involve drilling wells that oil or gas flows through naturally under its own pressure, or through which oil is pumped up to the surface.
The group, self-described as being made up of parents, professionals, farmers, students and others, contends an uptick in efforts by oil companies to expand the use of high-intensity petroleum operations will compete with agricultural and public uses for limited water supplies, threaten the county’s scenic vistas and quality of life, and possibly prompt seismic activity.
The group also cites concerns that high-intensity extraction techniques such as fracking, acid well stimulation treatments and cyclic steam injection can cause water contamination and an increased emission of air pollutants.
“Using these technologies, the petroleum industry would gain increased access to oil resources lying below our homes, farms and natural areas,” said Rebecca Claassen with the Santa Barbara County Water Guardians. “The impacts and risks associated with high-intensity petroleum operations are too great for Santa Barbara County residents to accept. In order to protect local resources and interests, we want to prohibit this land use before it further endangers human health and the environment in Santa Barbara County.”
Several wells around Los Alamos were fracked in 2011, prompting the county to develop regulations requiring companies interested in fracking to submit a production plan to county staff, and get the process signed off on by the county Planning Commission.
The group is inviting supporters to come to an April 5 kickoff party and join volunteers who will be gathering signatures to qualify the initiative for the November ballot.