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SLO County Board of Supervisors allow new oil wells in Arroyo Grande

Pumpjacks at the Arroyo Grande Oil Field.
Greta Mart/KCBX
Pumpjacks at the Arroyo Grande Oil Field.

The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors votedTuesday to allow 31 new oil wells in Arroyo Grande over the next three years.

The vote was 4-1, with the sole dissenter Supervisor Bruce Gibson calling for additional environmental review on the project.

“I think the appropriate approach would be to wrap those 31 wells left to drill into a future project that gets the right environmental review," Gibson said at the meeting.

Supervisor Dawn Ortiz-Legg was one of the votes in support of allowing the new oil fields to go forward.

“I think it’s so important that for us here in California, we’ve had the opportunity to actually understand that while we’re utilizing petroleum in our daily lives, that we’re doing it in the cleanest manner we know how,” Ortiz-Legg said at the meeting. “By supporting this, it’s not just because of the good jobs here, it’s not just because of using the products, but we have to follow the science, and the science is demonstrating that this operation can be done clean and efficiently.”

The vote came after multiple hours of public comment and testimony from the company behind the project, Sentinel Peak Resources.

Specifically, the supervisors’ vote denied a 2015 appeal from the Center for Biological Diversity.

“The dangerous drilling processes used in Arroyo Grande draw from the county’s already low water supplies and the resulting waste pollutes Pismo Creek and nearby groundwater supplies at a rate of over a million gallons a day,” said Mary Ciesinski, executive director of  the Environmental Center of San Luis Obispo, in a press release.

“The board’s approval of Sentinel Peak’s application threatens our water, air, and climate at a time when we need leaders who will help our community turn away from fossil fuel production and turn toward renewable energy,” Ciesinski said.

Sentinel Peak Resources now has three years to construct the dozens of wells at the oil field located off Price Canyon Road in Arroyo Grande.

Benjamin Purper was News Director of KCBX from May of 2021 to September of 2023. He came from California’s Inland Empire, where he spent three years as a reporter and Morning Edition host at KVCR in San Bernardino. Dozens of his stories have aired on KQED’s California Report, and his work has broadcast on NPR's news magazines, as well. In addition to radio, Ben has worked as a newspaper reporter and freelance writer.
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