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A $3,000 grant from The Fund for Santa Barbara will not only help the Santa Barbara County Water Guardians pay legal costs associated with its initiative to ban hydraulic fracturing in the county, but organizers say it also highlights the group’s growing support base.

“I think it’s a vote of confidence in this group and what we’ve been able to achieve as well as what we can do in the future,” said Katie Davis, a lead Water Guardians member. This grass-roots group of county volunteers is concerned with what members say is a local increase in the use of high-intensity oil and gas extraction methods used to maximize production in new and reworked wells.

These extraction techniques include hydraulic fracturing, in which operators inject a pressurized fluid, which is usually a mixture of water and chemicals, into a well to create or widen openings in the surrounding rock to ease oil and gas flow. There are no fracking projects now operating in the county.

The ban would also halt new cyclic steaming projects, which can be seen throughout the county. With this technique, operators inject pressurized steam into a reservoir to create new openings through which warmed oil can flow to the production well.

The Board of Supervisors approved Santa Maria Energy’s proposal to add 110 new cyclic steamed wells to its local holdings in

November 2013, and the Pacific Coast Energy Company is currently proposing to add 96 new cyclic steamed wells to its Orcutt Oil Field operations.

Hundreds of Water Guardians volunteers are attempting to collect 13,200 signatures by May 7 to qualify the group’s Healthy Air and Water Initiative to Ban Fracking for the Nov. 4 ballot. Volunteers collected nearly 6,000 signatures in the first week, according to Davis.

The Fund for Santa Barbara announced the Water Guardians’ award late last week as part of its Emerging Need Grant program, which provides swift financial assistance to grassroots efforts in the community.

“This is an excellent example of a grass-roots organization taking an issue into their own hands,” said Fund for Santa Barbara County Executive Director Geoff Green. “They’ve generated a lot of energy and an incredible number of volunteers in a short time.”

Representatives from the oil and gas industry argue that group’s proposed ban would harm the local economy and cost jobs.

“(Oil and gas companies) have been operating for a long time, decades and decades and have provided needed energy, needed jobs and needed tax revenue,” said Rock Zierman, CEO of the California Independent Petroleum Association.

The Water Guardians initiative would not impact existing operations or proposals for traditional drilling techniques, according to the initiative, and would apply solely to the county’s unincorporated areas.

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