The first steps in what’s sure to be a long and contentious process to expand oil and gas drilling near Vandenberg Air Force Base were taken this week at a public comment meeting in Lompoc. The Plains Exploration and Production Company proposes to expand slant drilling from Platform Irene in the federal waters off the Santa Barbara Channel to the Tranquillon Ridge in state waters just off Vandenberg; the plan has received a preliminary environmental assessment from the county and is set to undergo full Environmental Impact Review later this spring. According to state numbers, the Tranquillon Ridge reserve has approximately 200 million barrels of crude oil and as many as 50 billion cubic feet of natural gas. A separate proposal from Sunset Explorations Inc. to slant drill into the ridge from inside the air force base will likely be submitted to the county by April.

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