More Study for Venoco Pier Project

Santa Barbara environmentalists and the City of Goleta celebrated a victory this past Wednesday when the State Lands Commission agreed with their arguments that the desire to re-start oil extraction from an old pier-based well off of the Ellwood Coast required additional review.

The project, which is known as PRC 421 and located on a pier off the shore below Sandpiper Golf Course, is being pursued by Venoco, Inc., which owns the Ellwood Onshore Facility, where the company would prefer to process the resulting oil. The well in question had been in production until a spill required it to be shut down in the late 1990s, so Venoco believes it has a vested right to resume production.

Though expected by many to approve the project on Wednesday, the State Lands Commission instead asked its staff to examine whether it would be possible for the oil to be processed nine miles up the coast at Las Flores Canyon (which is the officially preferred facility for South Coast oil production) and to take a harder look at whether the well is being repressurized. Venoco and State Lands staff have theorized that pressure may be building in the well, which could trigger future leaks, but have yet to document whether or not that’s actually happening. Additionally, the commission asked staff to further evaluate how processing of oil and gas at the Ellwood Onshore Facility will impact the City of Goleta’s policies regarding the facility, which is considered nonconforming to the surrounding recreational uses. The additional review, which will include another period of public comment, is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

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