Looking to put approval for the controversial Paredon oil project on a special-election ballot sometime soon, Venoco Inc. filed paperwork with the City of Carpinteria this week. If voted in with a simple majority by Carp voters, the tentatively titled “Carpinteria Community Initiative” would allow Venoco’s Paredon project to move into the approval pipeline without Carpinteria City Council or Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors support. In the works for many years, Paredon looks to use the old Chevron oil and gas facility behind Carpinteria City Hall to slant drill several dozen offshore wells. Using an onshore rig that would vary in height from 140 to 175 feet (roughly the same size as the Statue of Liberty), the project is scheduled to pump oil for about 15 years, although, according to Venoco, the actual rig would only be in place for a fraction of that time. An Environmental Impact Report on the project last year identified at least 11 Class 1-highly undesirable but unmitigatable-impacts associated with the plan.
Heralded by its supporters as a cash cow for Carpinteria, the county, and the state during economically trying times-Paredon is estimated to generate more than $100 million in tax revenue for Carp and more than $1 billion for the state-Venoco has further sweetened the deal for the city in the language of the proposed initiative. Based on extensive public canvassing in Carp last summer, Veneco is offering to donate, out of its own pocket, up to $1 million a year during the first five years of the project to the Carpinteria Education Foundation and to gift some 22 acres of their 55-acre parcel back to the city. Before becoming a ballot reality, the initiative language must get the okay from the Carpinteria city attorney and signatures from 15 percent of registered voters. If ultimately approved by city voters, the project would seek final approval at the California State Lands Commission.