A recent opinion column (Irv Beiman, Sept. 23) contained some serious misinformation about Aera Energy and our proposed oil production project in East Cat Canyon. We’d like to set the record straight.

Aera is a California company with operations in Ventura, Monterey, Fresno and Kern Counties.

Our goal is to safely and responsibly produce essential energy supplies while protecting human health and the environment. We value safety, environmental stewardship and partnering with the communities in which we operate, and we’re looking forward to being a strong and respected partner in Santa Barbara as well.

Here are the facts: 

Our project will be located in a rural area about 10 miles southeast of Santa Maria, adjacent to other oil fields and ranchlands. The site has a long history of oil production, having operated for about 100 years before being decommissioned in the 1990s.

Aera plans to install 141 oil wells and a similar number of wells for steam injection, water injection and monitoring.

There will be no hydraulic fracturing, and no fresh water will be used for oil production.

Speaking of water, it was implied that Aera’s project is already impacting water quality. That is patently false.

The project hasn’t been permitted nor constructed yet, and there has been no oil production on our site since the 1980s. 

We realize there’s a larger question involved: Can we produce oil while protecting water quality and the environment? The answer is an unqualified “yes.”

That’s because Aera devotes resources, management attention and innovative practices in complying with environmental laws. And importantly, county planning staff is conducting a very thorough environmental impact report, which will ensure we comply with all water protection requirements and other environmental safeguards.

It was also inaccurately asserted that we’ll be using “extreme extraction methods.” This is an unfortunate scare tactic with no technical basis.

The fact is that steam injection is a modern, safe and commonly used method of oil recovery that is permitted and strictly regulated under state law. It has been safely used for decades in California and many other places in the U.S. and the world.

As for our commitment to becoming a reliable community partner in Santa Barbara, this is a core value at Aera. In fact, we’ve already begun actively supporting and engaging in local nonprofits here.

Our employees served food every week this summer at the Santa Barbara Foodbank’s “Picnic in the Park” events. We donated funds for a new roof for the Boys & Girls Club and we sponsored The Hancock Promise, a program that gives free tuition to incoming freshmen at Hancock College.

We’ve also partnered with, to name just a few, Central Coast Future Leaders (Latino Legacy Awards), Partners in Education, United Way, Economic Alliance of Santa Barbara County, and the Workforce and Literacy Initiative.

Finally, the broader economic benefits to Santa Barbara County are real, and extensive.

The UC Santa Barbara Economic Forecast analyzed our project and found it would create hundreds of jobs and more than $1 billion in economic activity. It would also make Aera one of the county’s largest taxpayers.

That’s new tax money to help pay officers to patrol, firefighters to protect homes and property, and teachers and schools to educate our kids.

We encourage you to visit our website at AeraEastCatCanyon.com.

And if you have any questions or would like further information, please feel free to contact us online at AeraEastCatCanyon@aeraenergy.com, or by phone at 805.361.8800.

Rick Rust

Santa Barbara Representative/Aera Energy