Send a letter to the state opposing Venoco’s proposal to resume oil production from an old pier off Sandpiper Golf Course? Or, if the State Lands Commission approves the project, make a preemptive deal with the Carpinteria-based energy company to allow processing at the Ellwood Onshore Facility (EOF), located between the links and the Bacara Resort? Or do both?
Those were the contradictory decisions before the Goleta City Council on Tuesday night, as councilmembers determined how to prepare for the outcome of the April 23 State Lands hearing on the project in Sacramento. But, as a dozen environmentalists lined up to lobby for opposition to Venoco and against any deal, Venoco spokesperson Steve Greig made the decision easy, explaining that if the city sent its strongly worded letter, the company would no longer support the deal, which would have led to the quick removal of one of the two existing piers, kicked royalties to the city, and put a 17-year limit on the resumed pier-based well. The city is stuck in a tough spot because if the state approves the extraction, but the city does not allow it to be processed at the EOF, then it will likely be processed over the water, on the second pier, which is the most eco-frightening option.
By the time councilmembers were to deliberate, there was only one unanimous decision to make: Send the letter to the State Lands Commission and make no decision on the deal at all. Meanwhile, Venoco’s last-minute fastball may have only triggered more animosity from the city’s decision makers, as more than one — and many of the public speakers — spoke of relooking at amortization of the EOF, which is zoned as a nonconforming use of recreational space. “My hope and my desire and my vision is that this will be an official recreation area in my lifetime,” said Mayor Michael Bennett.