Community leaders resist plans to open Santa Barbara to oil drilling and fracking: Congressman Salud Carbajal and nonprofit ForestWatch lead the efforts
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The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has decided to open upwards of 122,000 acres of land in the Santa Barbara County to oil drilling and fracking. Though the announcement was made only a few months ago, it has provoked an astonishing amount of negative discussion among the citizens of Santa Barbara, and has driven city leaders to step up and protect the land at risk.
The project was proposed on August 8th, 2018 by the BLM. A total of eight counties will be affected: Santa Barbara, Kings, Ventura, Kern, Tulare, San Luis Obispo, Madera, and Fresno. In Santa Barbara County, the plan at this point will target many of the “emblematic” lands Santa Barbara prides itself for, says 1st District Supervisor Das Williams. These include, but are not limited to, the Santa Ynez Mountains, Tepusquet Canyon, all of Vandenberg Air Force Base, and lands near to the Los Padres National Forest. With the proposal, the BLM opened a public scoping process via the Federal Register that allowed citizens to express their opinions on the matter until September 7th. However, the community was not adequately notified of this according to 3rd District Supervisor Joan Hartmann, and should have had more time to properly voice their concerns regarding the environmental effects that fracking and/or drilling may have. Los Padres ForestWatch, a nonprofit organization protecting wildlife and wilderness along California’s central coast, learned of the news less than two weeks before the September 7th deadline, and though the organization (along with Santa Barbara Congressman Salud Carbajal and Supervisor Hartmann) requested an extension for the deadline on the grounds that the map of the target areas was insufficient, the request was denied by the BLM.
In spite of this, the BLM received over 8,000 comments. Fracking is already known to be a risk because of its notorious destruction of clean water sources, pollution of the air, and contribution to harmful greenhouse gases that are the source of global warming. Those like Congressman Carbajal and Supervisor Hartmann believe that this, on top of the already challenging environmental issues the country is currently facing (such as drought), would only make matters worse.
To rally stronger support against the plan and to give voice those who did not get a chance to express themselves, concerned leaders in the community assembled in front of the Santa Barbara Courthouse Thursday, October 11th. Additionally, though the BLM has officially closed comments on the fracking proposal, Congressman Carbajal directed community members to his office, assuring them that their comments will be passed on to the BLM. “We need to send a strong message,” Congressman Carbajal said at the rally.
Currently, county officials and ForestWatch are awaiting the next move from the BLM, which will be the Environmental Impact Statement Draft. This will be released once the appropriate research that is currently underway, concludes, the expected time being August of 2019. At this time the public will once again have the opportunity to comment officially on the proposal. There is still much uncertainty about whether or not the proposal will be passed and such fracking/oil drilling will commence, but the community of Santa Barbara has shown they are willing to stand their ground and fight for their sacred lands.