Thanks to a ruling in Santa Barbara Superior Court this week, it looks like the fate of Veneco Energy’s controversial Paredon Project will be decided by the residents of Carpinteria. On Tuesday afternoon, Judge Thomas Anderle dismissed a lawsuit by the City of Carpinteria challenging the legality of Veneco’s efforts to circumvent the traditional City and County approval processes and have their plans to slant drill offshore oil wells from the old Chevron facility behind City Hall decided by a special election. While Carp city attorney Peter Brown expressed disappointment in the wake of the ruling, Veneco spokesperson Steve Greig opined, “I think there are a lot of people in Carp who would like the chance to have the final say on the project and this makes that possible.”
In early February, shortly after an environmental impact report identified at least 11 unmitigatable impacts associated with the oil plan, Veneco filed papers with Carp to put the matter to a vote of the people rather than run a typical approval gauntlet. The tactic was a smart move, especially with initial estimates indicating that over it’s roughly 15-year lifespan the project will generate more than $100 million in tax revenue for the state and more than $1 billion for the state as well as, thanks to a pledge from Veneco, an additional $1 million for the first 5 years earmarked specifically for the Carpinteria Education Foundation and a gifting of 22 acres of the Chevron property to Carp.
As per the ruling, Caprinteria has until September 1 to prepare the official ballot title and summary. Once that is complete, proponents must collect – and get certified – signatures from 15 percent of Carp’s registered voters. According to Greig, Veneco remains hopeful that the matter will be on a special election ballot sometime in early 2010.