Trump plans increased fracking and oil drilling in Santa Barbara County

Cade Petrie, Staff Writer

The Trump administration finalized a study in late October on the environmental health impacts of oil drilling and fracking in California, and concluded that there are no significant effects of either on the surrounding areas. Finalizing the study was the last step in a Resource Management Plan that opens millions of acres throughout the California coast and interior to oil drilling and fracking.

The administration, based on the study, recommended no changes to the previous plan, which allows for drilling and fracking on federal lands on or near national parks and forests, state, city, and county beaches, wildlife preserves, rivers, reservoirs, and school campuses.

ForestWatch executive director Jeff Kuyper was quoted in response to the study: “If [the Bureau of Land Management] didn’t find impacts from oil drilling and fracking next to schools, under rivers and reservoirs, and in habitat that harbors endangered animals, it’s because they didn’t look.” 

Over a hundred thousand residents in the affected areas, from San Luis Obispo County to Ventura County, wrote letters and attended meetings expressing concern over the administration’s actions. The BLM has rejected most input as it has stated it does not consider the letters, testimonies, and comments provided as substantive information they should reconsider.

Among those commenting on the proposed plan’s inadequacies were Native American tribes, NGOs, and the U.S. Navy.

Due to a technicality invoked by the Trump administration, the proposal will not be up for any formal appeal or public review. The study was originally ordered by a judge in response to a lawsuit by ForestWatch and the Center for Biological Diversity. 

While the Trump administration deals with the public over this issue, Exxonmobil is also attempting to restart their offshore drilling operations in the Santa Barbara Channel. Exxonmobil has also proposed to transport oil they obtain from such operations on local highways. 

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors will vote on Exxonmobil’s proposal sometime early next year. Also up for review is a proposal by Plains All-American Pipelines to build an entirely new coastal pipeline to serve the oil platforms.

Stephanie Prufer, an organizer for the Center of Biological Diversity, has stated that not only do people not feel safe with oil tanker-trucks on their highways, they “are ready to phase out offshore drilling and embrace clean energy and climate action.” 

Public Policy Polling, at the commission of the Center for Biological Diversity, conducted a poll with 890 registered voters throughout Santa Barbara County and found the majority oppose Exxonmobil’s plans to restart their drilling activities. Around 51% disapprove, 32% support it, and the rest aren’t sure. In addition, almost three in four are against the idea of transporting the oil on local highways. 

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