More than four years after Carpinteria voters solidly defeated Measure J, the initiative launched by Venoco to push its Paredon project through, and only weeks removed from Measure P, the failed countywide drilling ban that a majority of Carpinteria voters rejected, the Carpinteria City Council voted this week to toughen its oil regulations but keep the controversial Paredon proposal afloat.
Approximately 70 people packed the council’s hearing room to make their cases, prompting Mayor Brad Stein to quip that they “killed a lot of trees” with the number of speaker slips. Industry insiders implored the city to put changes on the back burner, environmentalists invoked the finite nature of fossil fuels, and residents — still soured on Measure J — questioned Venoco’s motives. Ultimately, the council voted unanimously in favor of instituting stricter development standards for operations along a stretch of the Carpinteria bluffs.
Several Venoco employees, including Ian Livett, vice president of coastal operations, voiced opposition to the changes, instead suggesting that the council take no action. The Paredon project — its application was deemed complete in September, and an environmental review is scheduled to begin early next year — would see the construction of a 175-foot onshore-to-offshore drilling rig near the company’s existing processing plant on the bluffs. Venoco and industry officials contended that the rules could result in costly lawsuits for the city — a potential lawsuit was discussed in the council’s closed-session agenda the same day — but proponents, including the Environmental Defense Center, countered that the rules are legally sound and benefit from strong precedent. The changes won’t be immediate but rather will be folded into broader zoning and land-use code updates scheduled for 2015