Center for Biological Diversity

Media Advisory, October 22, 2015

Contact:  Patrick Sullivan, (415) 517-9364,
Ash Lauth, (847) 340-4570 (on-the-ground cell)

San Luis Obispo Residents to Protest Oil Company Drilling Plan

Freeport McMoRan Seeks Planning Commission Approval to
Drill 31 New Wells in Arroyo Grande Oilfield

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif.— Price Canyon-area residents and members of the Center for Biological Diversity will protest today outside a San Luis Obispo Planning Commission meeting against Freeport McMoRan’s plan to drill 31 new oil wells in a local oilfield. Residents are concerned about pollution threats to underground water supplies. There are at least 100 water-supply wells within a mile of the Arroyo Grande oilfield.

“County planners shouldn’t bend the rules to give Freeport special permission to drill these dangerous new oil wells,” said Maya Golden-Krasner, an attorney with the Center. “During this devastating drought, people living near this oilfield want their underground water supplies protected from the pollution risks.”

To drill these wells, Freeport needs county planners to extend a 10-year-old permit that expired in August. Most conditional use permits last two years, and extensions are typically granted only if there have been no changes to community resources. But California’s drought has created a massive new water-supply challenge in San Luis Obispo.

What: Price Canyon-area residents protest Freeport’s plan to drill 31 new oil wells.

Where: Outside Planning Commission meeting in the Board of Supervisors Chambers, County Government Center, 1055 Monterey Street, Room D170, San Luis Obispo.

When: Rally starts at 12:30 p.m.; Planning Commission hearing begins at 1:30 p.m.

These 31 wells are part of a larger Freeport expansion project. Freeport hopes to drill up to 350 new wells, including injection wells of the kind that have dumped oil waste into protected underground water across the state, to achieve up to a 10-fold increase in daily oil production.

Freeport recently applied for an aquifer exemption in this oilfield. Subject to approval by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the proposed aquifer exemption would allow injection wells to operate in the area, either for oil recovery or oil wastewater disposal.

This is the first attempt by the oil industry to seek an aquifer exemption following revelations earlier this year that California regulators have been allowing oil companies to dump toxic waste into scores of protected underground water supplies across California (interactive map), in violation of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. Oil industry wastewater can contain high levels of benzene and other cancer-causing chemicals.

Freeport’s aquifer application does not include any analysis about what will happen to the aquifer if the planned expansion proceeds — including possible changes in pressures underground and the potential for inducing fractures that could transport pollution to other water sources.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 900,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Go back