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Santa Maria community meets on the future of oil drilling

Posted at 12:13 AM, Mar 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-05 06:38:49-05

People on both sides of the oil argument met Wednesday night in Santa Maria, sharing their opinions about the future of oil drilling on the Central Coast.

The meeting was one of 10 that the California Department of Conservation's Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM) is hosting.

The organization is looking to update new protections and rule-making efforts on the oil and gas industry.

In Cat Canyon, there are current drilling proposals for more oil wells -- a reason why CalGEM wanted to hear from the Santa Maria community.

"We believe that you are well aware, that we produce safe, safe crude oil and work under the stringent regulations imaginable," said P. Anthony Thomas, California Independent Petroleum Association vice president of external affairs.

"[We need to] take immediate action to protect communities and families who live, work, worship, and go to school near active oil wells and refineries," said Sharon Burberg, Santa Barbara business owner.

CalGEM it says it will continue to seek public input to protect human health through new rules.

Many in attendance cited Assembly Bill 345, which looks to establish a minimum setback distance of 2,500 feet between oil and gas wells at sites such as schools and healthcare facilities.

For some, these meetings are optimistic small steps that will go a long way in making change in the state of California.

"I think the key is persistence," said Elena Salinas, UCSB student. "So showing up at every opportunity we have to show how determined we are to win this fight and it is a small step but with a lot of small steps, you reach the goal."

During the meeting, some key points from those in support of the oil industry: lack of an energy alternative and the potential for job loss in the county.

Those against oil drilling cited issues such as climate change and water confirmation.

CalGEM will continue holding community meetings across California through April of this year.