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County Supervisors Take Up Ag Pests, Drilling; Discussion of Possible Bag Ban Postponed

Natural gas drilling and agricultural pests were just two items tackled Tuesday by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors.

The dais had only four members, as Supervisor Salud Carbajal was attending President Barack Obama’s speech on climate change in Washington, D.C.

The most controversial item was approved 4-0 by the supervisors, and would allow the Southern California Gas Co. to drill from its existing plant for natural gas and store the gas on the La Goleta Storage Field, which the company has operated since 1941.

The decision would allow the company to drill and operate up to four wells for production, without the use of hydraulic fracturing, of natural gas at the La Goleta site in order to expand gas storage capacity.

The drilling would take two years, after which the drilling would stop, according to company representatives.

Despite reassurances from company reps that vibrations, pollution and traffic would not increase in the area, about 20 people spoke in opposition to the project, most of them neighbors of the Rancho Goleta Mobile Home Park.

“It only takes one accident to release hazardous toxins,” said Nanke Elliott, adding that putting in the new structures is “asking for trouble.”

The San Bruno explosion was brought up multiple times, as was a hydrogen sulfide leak that occurred at Venoco Inc.’s Ellwood Processing Facility several years ago.

In the end, Supervisor Janet Wolf, whose district the project is in, said she understood the concerns but would approve the project because of the company’s safety record.

“I know many of you are going to leave here disappointed, but I want you to know that your voices have been heard,” she told the audience.

The board also received an update on the county’s pest control strategies key to agricultural products.

The Asian citrus psyllid is an insect about the size of a grain of rice and serves as a carrier for the disease huanglongbing, a fatal disease of citrus plants that has no cure.

The first Asian citrus psyllid was found in Santa Maria last November, and the entire county is under quarantine to protect the 1,400 acres of citrus that grow here — a $10.4 million industry.

As produce is exported from other countries so are some pests, which can be devastating to produce in the region.

Among those pests are the light brown apple moth and stinging nettle caterpillar, one of which was recently intercepted on produce coming from Hawaii to a local address.

Also under discussion were the soil fumigants used in commercial strawberry production, and concern was raised about the chemicals used that could be contributing the die-off of bees and pollinators in the area.

Several speakers from the Santa Barbara Beekeepers Association spoke, urging the supervisors to pursue alternative treatments to pesticides.

The board was also scheduled to consider creation of a draft ordinance to limit single-use plastic bags, but because Supervisor Carbajal was absent, the board agreed to tackle it at next Tuesday’s meeting.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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