Shale Daily / NGI All News Access

California County Backs Off Fracking Ban

California's Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors decided Tuesday night to hold off on a ban of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and instead add well permitting requirements to require individual approvals by the county's planning and development department.

Independent exploration and production (E&P) company Denver-based Venoco Inc. expressed little concern about the additional permitting requirements. Vice President Mike Edwards told NGI's Shale Daily the company has no plans to drill any more wells this year in Santa Barbara County.

Recently Santa Barbara County officials began looking at fracking, something they had not thought would emerge in their locale this year (see Shale Daily, Sept. 8).

Supervisors have asked county staff to review requirements for oil and gas producers filing business plans regarding hazardous chemicals and eliminate a current 30-day time element in the requirements. Staff was charged with reporting back to the five supervisors on Dec. 6 with a proposed amendment to the county land use plan that will require the production plans for E&P operators.

Venoco is in the process of going private and Edwards had little to say about the latest actions. Edwards did confirm that Venoco's experience with two hydraulically fractured wells in Santa Barbara County this year was disappointing.

"We knew that the area was typical of the Monterey Shale in that it is all pretty much naturally fractured, and where that occurs it is difficult to create new fractures in the formation. We haven't decided to drill any additional wells in Santa Barbara County," Edwards said.

California's long-sleepy Monterey Shale play has gotten a lot of attention lately from the oil and gas industry, including Chesapeake Energy Corp. (see Shale Daily, Sept. 13). Last month at a western energy conference, Venoco's CEO said that for now the firm is only drilling conventional, vertical wells.

Supervisor Doreen Farr noted that there were no immediate plans for more fracking in the county, so a moratorium seemed unnecessary. Her colleagues unanimously agreed.

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