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SM Energy: Mitigate, move forward
Santa Maria Energy is champing at the bit to get final approval to expand by 110 wells its 26-well pilot project in the Orcutt Hills.
That stands to reason. The expanded project is expected to produce more than 3,000 barrels of crude oil a day. With prices at around $100 a barrel, there is potential daily gross revenue to the company of over $300,000.
That approval is delayed because the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission directed staff to analyze stricter greenhouse-gas emissions standards for the project, to reduce the impact on climate change.
The effects of fracking -- a realistic look
In a recent column, James Murr sounded the alarm about the potential for renewed oil production within the city of Santa Maria. He referenced a Times article about Area 9 being considered for oil development and cited an article in another publication that reported on hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” contaminating aquifers and triggering earthquakes.
Murr has good reason to be concerned.
In a letter to the editor, another writer said Murr need not worry because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (by 2009) had not documented any cases of groundwater contamination related to fracking; there are ample regulations in place to protect our environment from the impacts of oil and gas production; and the Monterey shale underlying the Santa Maria Valley is already naturally fractured.
Taking part in the process
The recent Times’ editorial, “Help draw blueprint for future,” may have left readers with the impression that local residents are disinterested in the long-range transportation plan prepared by the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments, because just one person came to a recent workshop.
The workshop was, in fact, a public hearing, and was held near the end of a long planning process. Although just one person testified, a total of 11 people attended the hearing.
Funding a commitment to renewable energy
In my May 10, 2013 Santa Maria Times editorial about proposed new oil drilling in the Orcutt Hills, I wrote that renewable energy should be subsidized as the primary energy source for our future. Another editorial writer in The Times asked how this would be funded.
Answer: the same way energy technologies of the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries were funded – by the federal and state governments. As the emerging technology of the 21st Century, renewables should be subsidized the way other energy technologies have been throughout U.S. history.
In the late 1700s, Congress enacted a tariff to protect the fledgling coal industry from British imports, giving American producers a major cost advantage. Pennsylvania exempted coal from taxation, publicized its advantages, and conducted geological surveys showing companies where it was located. By 1837, 14 states had followed Pennsylvania’s lead.
Energy: Can we find common ground?
The Economic Alliance of Northern Santa Barbara recently hosted the California Energy Summit in Buellton. Environmental advocates rubbed shoulders with oil producers.
One panel focused on renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, and efficiencies that reduce the use of fossil fuels. Some speakers and members of the audience argued against subsidizing development of alternative fuels, instead favoring increased production of fossil fuels.
Many of us used to think we needed to wean ourselves from fossil fuels because our supply would last only a few decades. As we learned at the Buellton conference, the supply is greater than ever, because of relatively new enhanced-extraction techniques, such as hydraulic fracturing and cyclic steaming. A lot of it is here in the United States, especially in the Monterey shale of the Central Coast and San Joaquin Valley.
SB CAN honors community leaders
The Lompoc Co-op Development Project is giving the Lompoc community a vision and hope for the future.
Members of a local church brought together community leaders and professionals of different faiths who share the same values and desires for economic renewal to help their economically stressed community.
Their first goal has just been realized — launching the Green Broom Brigade, a worker-owned, green, cleaning firm. A second co-op business enterprise will be studied later this year.
Community garden offers food connection
Imagine this: You take a basket to your garden and pick lettuce, tomatoes, celery, carrots and scallions. You take the ripe and delicious vegetables and create a salad for your family made of tasty and healthy ingredients.
Sure, it’s simple. Yet most of us don’t do this. Even though we live in a major agricultural region, most of the produce we consume has been grown elsewhere and harvested before it is ripe and treated so it can endure the miles and days of travel to warehouses and on to supermarkets before it even makes it to our homes. These foods are often bland. Kids don’t want to eat these fruits and vegetables because there isn’t much taste to them. Heck, we don’t like these bland foods, either.
Then there are the concerns about genetically modified seeds, chemicals and contamination. Add it all up, and many fruits and vegetables from the supermarket lose their appeal.
Continuing to help the most vulnerable
More than 550 volunteers gathered recently before the break of dawn to seek out and interview homeless folks.
Common Ground Santa Barbara County brought together volunteers from more than 100 organizations to count people living on the streets throughout the county, and to identify those who are most at risk of premature death due to homelessness.
Several members of the Santa Barbara County Action Network (SB CAN) were involved in the Vulnerability Index Survey and Point in Time Count. Teams headed out from logistics centers throughout the county to find people where they spent the night before dispersing for the day.
City needs election policy reform
When Santa Maria voters went to the polls in November, they voted for two people to fill the expired terms of two council members and for a mayor to replace Mayor Larry Lavagnino.
Now, voters find the Santa Maria City Council is again faced with the responsibility of how to fill the remaining two years of a vacated council seat, because a council member was elected to the mayor’s office.
In the recent past, two vacancies were due to a council member being elected mayor, and two council vacancies occurred when a member was elected to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors.
The City Council filled three of these past vacancies with the next highest vote getter, and the council filled one vacancy by appointment after interested citizens filled out applications.