The Associated Students Coastal Fund gave the Environmental Defense Center $15,000 to prevent the use of explosives and chemicals to break up underground rock formations and release oil to natural gas.
The process, known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking,” has detrimental effects on the environment — such as contaminating drinking water — and remains largely unregulated in Santa Barbara County. The EDC will use the funds to endorse laws that regulate the procedure and hire a UCSB intern to organize an educational workshop on March 14.
According to Coastal Fund Outreach and Education Coordinator Erica Aguilera, a fourth-year environmental science major, fracking causes unknown chemicals to leak into the region’s water supply.
“There have been cases where people have been able to set their faucet water on fire,” Aguilera said. “There are actually loopholes that they have in the Safe Drinking Water Act where they allow the injection of certain chemicals that can be very harmful to human health.”
A.S. Coastal Fund Board Member Marissa Bills said fracking’s potential to harm the local ecology offsets its efficiency.
“It is essentially a way to make the process of extracting natural gas a lot easier,” Bills said. “A lot of sites where it occurs are close to groundwater supplies, which is really problematic because it contaminates the water and makes it undrinkable.”
Bills said the public remains largely unaware of the various potential impacts the project could pose for the environment.
“So much about it has been quiet so a lot of the environmental effects aren’t really known,” Bills said. “A big part of the issue is that we really don’t know what it’s doing to the environment. It could be causing a lot of problems that we don’t yet understand.”
Aguilera said the seminar will focus on how people can get involved and do their part to help fix the problem.
“It’s a very solution-based workshop,” Aguilera said. “They’re not going to go there and learn terrible things, and walk away feeling depressed about the state of our world. Instead, they’re going to leave feeling empowered that they can do something about these things that are happening.”
The “From Gasland to Oil Country: Fracking in the USA,” workshop will take place March 14 in Bren Hall Room 1424.