Venoco Oil Piers
Paul Wellman

Will the City of Goleta take the first step toward shutting down Venoco’s Ellwood Onshore Facility (EOF) at the Tuesday night city council meeting?

That’s what is on the table, as the council considers how to reign in the oil processing plant, which has been considered a nonconforming use even before the city was incorporated back in 2002. The council will discuss whether to update the existing ordinance for shutting down nonconforming uses, and then whether to use that ordinance call a hearing for shutting down the EOF.

The decision, which is expected to draw large crowds on all sides of the issue to the 6 p.m. hearing, comes on the eve of Wednesday’s State Lands Commission hearing in Newport Beach that may allow more oil to flow into the facility. The city’s staff feels that their concerns over that project — in which an old well on a pier adjacent to Sandpiper Golf Course would be re-opened to drain a field whose pressure may be unsafely building — have not been adequately addressed by State Lands’ analysis.

Prior attempts to get Venoco to agree to a voluntary end date for the EOF — including one near-deal that would have allowed 17 more years — have not yet proved fruitful. If the ordinance is passed as worded, the shut down could happen in as soon as five years.

The city council is also expected on Tuesday night to sign a contract with the Texas firm that studied amortization of the EOF for the County of Santa Barbara in the late 1990s. And they will likely also send another letter expressing their continued dismay over the pier project to the State Lands Commission, whose staff made a number of errors in their analysis, according to Goleta staff.


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