Mission statement

Aromas Cares for our Environment (ACE) is a group of Aromas community members dedicated to the stewardship of our local environment. 

Initial focus

ACE formed after community members discovered that some entity was exploring the potential for oil and/or natural gas extraction in our area.   As a result, our first focus has been learning about, monitoring for, and educating the public about this activity and about modern oil and natural gas extraction methods in general, and ensuring that sufficienafeguards are in place to protect our water supply and air quality.

Note: since adoption of the new county oil and gas ordinance, we have not been regularly updating this website. 
For more information about, and to get involved with, ongoing fracking and other oil-related issues in the San Benito County area, please see https://sites.google.com/site/sanbenitorising2 or contact Mary Hsia-Coron or Kate Woods at

Summary of our current situation

Graniterock, a local rock and building materials business, recently contracted with an oil and gas exploration company to conduct a seismic survey of the areas around their Wilson quarry in Aromas.  Company representatives were initially somewhat secretive and misleading about their role in, and motives for, conducting the survey*; this lack of transparency and resultant community uncertainty about the situation provided the impetus for the formation of our Aromas Cares for our Environment (ACE ) group.

In the time since the survey was conducted (in late June, 2012) we have been educating ourselves and our community on issues related to oil and natural gas extraction. During this period we have learned about the geology of our region and the history of oil production here; about potentially negative aspects of some types of oil extraction technologies; and about the politics of oil.

We learned that there is a large oil formation, called the Monterey Shale or the Miocene Monterey Formation, that extends from the Santa Barbara area up to Monterey County, with fingers of reserves stretching out from there.  Much of this oil is in a form that is not easily extractable using traditional methods; however, with the increase in recent years in the use of "enhanced recovery" techniques, there has been increased oil company interest in these reserves.  These enhanced recovery methods include steam extraction, acid extraction, and hydraulic fracturing ("fracking").  Although all of these methods involve chemistry not used in traditional oil and natural gas extraction, in California none of them is regulated or tracked any differently than are the traditional methods.  Statewide, there is no requirement that companies declare the chemicals used in their extraction operations, or even that they are using enhanced extraction methods.  Any regulation on these activities therefore has been enacted at the county level.

One of the things that we found during our discovery process was that the oil and gas extraction regulations for San Benito County are extremely outdated and don't reflect the complexities and environmental issues related to these current methods of extraction.

Based on advice from experts on extraction regulation issues in California, the ACE coordinating committee decided to focus on updating the current permitting process for oil and natural gas extraction in San Benito County.  We felt that the permitting process as it stands does not reflect current technologies (such as enhanced oil recovery techniques) and does not provide sufficient environmental or economic safeguards for our community.  We have been working with the San Benito County Board of Supervisors - particularly with Supervisor Anthony Botelho - in this effort, and have been collecting signatures as well as support letters from key players in the community in order to better make our case.  We initially focused on getting a temporary moratorium on new oil and gas drilling permits, but county staff are moving forward on modifying the ordinance quickly enough that a moratorium may no longer be critical.  At the Board of Supervisors meeting on October 16, 2012, staff presented their suggested changes for the county oil and gas drilling ordinance (these suggestions are detailed here).  The next step was a public workshop, held November 1, 2011, to discuss this new proposed ordinance and to suggest changes to it.
The agenda can be found here; this agenda includes a Powerpoint of the presentation that county planning staff gave of their current proposed changes to the drilling ordinance.  The ACE presentation is here. 

On November 19, 2012, San Benito County Supervisors Anthony Botelho and Jerry Muenzer, who serve as the Board of Supervisors' Ad Hoc Committee on the Oil and Gas Ordinance, met with representatives from ACE. The Supervisors sought ACE input on revision of the Oil and Gas ordinance.

Dr. Steve Craig, a leader in the movement for responsible oil exploration and extraction and an expert on fracking, attended with ACE Steering Committee members Seth Capron, Vicki Morris, and Pat Lerman. Deputy County Counsel and members of the county Planning Department were also present.

Supervisor Botelho led the way in the discussion of adequate notice of a proposed oil project, baseline water testing, zoning concerns, annual inspections and other key issues.

 ACE representatives expressed the need for amended permits once a project changes its nature, regulation of successor owners of a drilling site, the required distance for notification of a proposed project, prohibiting drilling in residential areas, size of a surety bond that must be posted by the project proponent, adequate fees to cover county costs in administering and inspecting the project, baseline testing, and enforcement.

Dr. Craig's technical knowledge and experience were very helpful to the county staff and supervisors.

Since that time, members of ACE have been in communication with the Planning Department and Ad Hoc Committee to help refine the new ordinance.  The Ad Hoc Committee has also spoken with oil interests to hear their concerns.  At the end of the process, the committee will bring a proposed ordinance revision to the full Board of Supervisors.

Update:  On June 18, 2013, the Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to approve the new ordinance. 
While work remains to be done in this area, we are quite pleased with the progress we have made in the last year, and are impressed with the seriousness and speed with which the Board and the Planning Department considered our concerns and worked to improve the protection and quality of life in our county.

*More recently, company spokespeople have expressed not only regret at this initial approach, but also an interest in working with ACE on modernizing county-level oil and gas extraction ordinances.

How to get involved

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