Strategy for a Better Future:
GET INVOLVED To PROTECT SB County Air, Food & Water
It seems like a no-brainer — we must protect our air, food and water resources from toxic chemicals. If we don’t, we will most likely experience expensive medical bills, unnecessary suffering and premature death. This is not fear-mongering. I know this first-hand after having lived and worked in China for 20 years from 1993 to 2013.
WHY I CARE
My wife and I moved to Shanghai in 1993 for professional reasons and became pioneers in management consulting by establishing China’s first wholly foreign owned management consultancy. Ten years later there were 130,000 consulting companies in China. Our work in the 1990’s afforded us opportunities to develop relationships with both staff and clients, with their ages ranging from late 20’s to the 50’s. We travelled throughout the country to all of the coastal cities as well as to many cities in the interior of the country.
In those early days the shift from a centrally planned to a market driven economy was just getting started and people were living well into their 80’s and 90’s. However, by 2013 more and more were dying prematurely in their 50’s. Though we were saddened by this, it seemed less shocking in light of the increasing pollution that was occurring as the Chinese government raced to develop its resources and become a competitive world economy.
This seemed particularly true in Shanghai, where we saw reports about the government making an effort to clean up the industrial chemicals in the water. A new water plant was built at the cost of several billion Rmb, the equivalent of more than 300 million USD. The government learned that their efforts to improve water quality, chemicals were leaking into the water distribution pipe system. There was nothing they could do about the pipes, but they did take effective action to reduce ongoing industrial pollution in the city. Industrial production facilities were moved out of Shanghai to reduce both air and water pollution.
Here in SB County we have clear choices about the actions we take that will either protect our air, food and water resources, or slowly poison us from hazardous chemicals. Locally, our elected representatives to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors hold the decision-making power for much of our agricultural lands and open spaces. They are our public servants. Therefore, it is our responsibility to tell them what kind of a County we choose to live in. This is not an easy task because it requires us, first and foremost, to become informed
Currently there are three pending requests for more than 700 new oil wells in the county. These are at various stages of environmental review. The SB County Planning Commission will likely consider these requests for new oil wells in the coming months. If approved, these wells could use a variety of extreme oil extraction methods, including fracking and steam injection. These extreme methods inject a wide variety of toxic chemicals into the earth. This can vastly increase the risk of poisoning the air we breathe and the aquifers from which we drink and irrigate our food.
BECOMING INFORMED: SEPARATING FACT FROM FICTION
There is much conflicting information about the safety of oil and gas drilling and its environmental impacts. How can we separate fact from fiction? Two informative events were recently held in Solvang and Santa Barbara, co-sponsored by three concerned organizations: Food and Water Watch, SB CAN, and Safe Energy Now! North County. A detailed accounting of these meetings was reported by the Lompoc Record (March 28, 2017). This report is worthy of careful reading and consideration.
Another informative article, an editorial authored by SB CAN executive Director Ken Hough, is “Stop Dumping Wastewater Into Aquifers”. However, before checking out these links allow me to share my own strategic takeaways from the event.
The highest quality and easiest to obtain oil has already been taken from the ground in SB County. What’s left is of lower quality and harder to extract. To do so will likely require some form of fracking, steam injection or acidization process. This process will use toxic chemicals and millions of gallons of water. Herein lie the problems:
Problem 1: These chemicals can toxify our aquifers and the air we breathe.
Problem 2: We do not have millions of gallons of water to waste forcing oil out the ground. Once used, this water becomes toxic wastewater that must be disposed of.
Problem 3: Currently this toxic wastewater is either injected back into the ground where it can again enter our aquifers or it is used on agricultural crops.
Problem 4: In both instances, this oil and gas wastewater disposal is happening without our knowledge of where or how it is taking place.
Oil company representatives insist their methods are safe. So safe they are unwilling to disclose the chemicals used to extract the oil and gas. However, research indicates that benzene, toluene, xylene and radioactive isotopes are among the toxic substances used. These and many other toxic chemicals are used in numerous routine, unregulated oil- and gas-field activities such as the drilling, cleaning and maintenance of wells, according to a recently published study in PLOS ONE on April 19 [https://m.phys.org/news/2017-04-hazardous-chemicals-unregulated-routine-oil.html].
Further, thanks to the Halliburton loophole that creates an exemption from existing rules, oil and gas companies can inject petroleum-based chemicals into the ground without obtaining a permit.
Problem 5: The World Health Organization says that exposure to benzene is a major public health concern that has been associated with a range of acute and long-term adverse health effects and diseases, including cancer and aplastic anaemia.
Another ploy used by oil companies is to claim that deep drilling underground does not pose a risk to aquifers that are closer to the surface. What they don’t explain is that many of these wells go directly through an aquifer.
Problem 6: Steel corrodes and cement casings can develop cracks that increase the possibility of toxic chemical leakage entering and poisoning our underground aquifers.
Problem 7: We live in a high earthquake-fault area where the earth moves and shifts ever so slightly causing cracks to form in the underground layers of rock. Steam injection under pressure causes toxic chemicals to migrate through these cracks to other locations — sideways, up and down — including our aquifers.
In the minds of the oil and gas company executives, this is a small risk and well worth the price that the public would pay so they can make greater profit. From their perspective it’s short term money for them versus long term health deterioration for us. In other words, the public is the only loser. I confess, as a psychologist this seems absolutely insane to me.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO CREATE A BETTER FUTURE
As previously mentioned, I lived in a communist country for 20 years that looked at this very equation and chose profit. I saw the effects of China’s policy priorities on its people. The public in China is more informed now. People are pressuring the government to clean up the air and water. We live under a different governance system in our county. We have a right to clean and safe food, water and energy. We must stand up for a Better Future for our health and quality of life, and for future generations.
Let’s be clear — clean water is essential for life. The first step is to get informed. Here’s a short video that is informative. Read and learn. Share information with your friends and neighbors, and in your digital networks. Get involved. We need all the help possible to protect our food, air and water. Contact our Santa Barbara Board of Supervisors (https://www.countyofsb.org/electedofficials.sbc). Tell them to protect our air and water from toxic chemicals by denying these 700 new oil and gas well permit requests, and denying any requests to frack, steam inject or use any other extreme extraction methods.
Don’t be fooled by oil and gas propaganda. Our health is at stake. Our economy is at stake. Our property values are at stake. Let’s create a Better Future together by denying new oil and gas permits and supporting a rapid transition to alternative renewable energy sources that are safe and resilient.
Irv Beiman, Ph.D. is a clinical/organizational psychologist, a resident of Santa Ynez and a founding board member of Safe Energy Now! North County. After traveling to more than 20 countries and spending seven years deciding where to retire, Irv and his wife decided on Santa Ynez Valley as the most beautiful place to spend the rest of their days. They were the co-authors of a groundbreaking best selling book that is used by enterprises and business schools throughout China, “Balanced Scorecard and Strategy Execution: Applications in China”. Irv is an avid hiker, as well as an exercise and wellness enthusiast. He works pro bono to stimulate non-profits in Santa Barbara County to cooperate beyond their organizational boundaries to accelerate achievement of goals they share in common. He can be reached at ReadyForBetterMethod@gmail.com. A description of his method for accelerating progress toward aspirational goals is described at WWW.ReadyForBetterMethod.com.
A shorter version of this article was published in Noozhawk on April 28, 2017 at https://www.noozhawk.com/article/irv_beiman_involved_to_protect_santa_barbara_county_air_food_water_20170428