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Santa Barbara County Grand Jury says thousands of idle and abandoned onshore oil wells pose threat

Santa barbara County Fire Department Photo
A small oil spill in 2020 at an abandoned oil facility east of Santa Maria.

Report calling for better monitoring says Santa Barbara County has nearly 5,600 idle wells, with more than 4,200 plugged and abandoned.

While offshore oil wells have long been a huge environmental issue on the Central and South Coasts, a new Santa Barbara County Grand Jury report we should be concerned about thousands of idle and abandoned onshore wells.

The numbers are stunning. A Santa Barbara County Grand Jury report says there are more than 6,600 onshore oil wells in the county, with nearly 5,600 of them idle. About 4,200 of the wells are plugged and abandoned.

A new Grand Jury report says the county doesn’t have enough trained staff to monitor the wells for potential problems.

The report notes that the frequency of seepage, and other spills is currently low. But, it says more needs to be done to identify, and monitor potential risks.

It also contends that the county is also slow at requiring the removal of drilling equipment, and derricks from idle sites. The report calls on Santa Barbara County Supervisors to step up, and direct the County Planning and Development Department to be more aggressive in forcing compliance.