Friday, August 28 , 2015, 3:54 pm | Fair 84.0º




Venoco Steps Up Defense of Carpinteria Slant-Drilling Initiative

In face of city officials' fierce opposition, company emphasizes economic benefits, project's rigorous governmental oversight

To tap oil deposits off the Carpinteria coastline, Venoco Inc. wants to install a 140-foot drilling rig at its Dump Road processing facility, center, for an extended-reach project that could mean millions of dollars of royalties for the city. A June 8 ballot measure aims to help make it happen.

To tap oil deposits off the Carpinteria coastline, Venoco Inc. wants to install a 140-foot drilling rig at its Dump Road processing facility, center, for an extended-reach project that could mean millions of dollars of royalties for the city. A June 8 ballot measure aims to help make it happen.  (Mike Edwards photo / Venoco Inc.)

By Lara Cooper, Noozhawk Staff Writer |

Carpinteria voters will decide in June whether to approve a slant-drilling operation accessing oil deposits off the seaside city’s coast, and although that election is three months away, debate surrounding the issue is already red hot.

The majority of Carpinteria council members have been outspoken about their distaste for the project proposed by Venoco Inc. and placed on the ballot through a citizens’ initiative, saying it circumvents the environmental process.

Because ballot initiatives like the Paredon Oil and Gas Development Initiative aren’t subject to the California Environmental Quality Act before they are passed, Venoco’s approach to get its project directly before voters has raised some eyebrows.

Noozhawk sat down with Venoco community relations manager Lisa Rivas on Friday to hear the company’s perspective on the issue.

Rivas said getting the ballot measure approved is only the first step because the Carpinteria General Plan doesn’t have provisions for slant drilling at an onshore location.  If the ballot measure passes, the General Plan would be changed to allow for that type of drilling.

Venoco has been planning its slant-drilling project for more than a decade, and would like to see a 140-foot drilling rig installed at its Dump Road processing facility. Chevron owned the facility in the 1950s and sold it to Venoco in 1999, and “it’s been there as long as some of these residents and even before,” Rivas said.

Extended-reach, or slant, drilling, would allow access to oil and natural gas in the Santa Barbara Channel without using an offshore platform, and could reach up to 11,000 barrels of oil a day.

More than 1,000 signatures were gathered last year to put the Paredon project, now Measure J, on the June 8 ballot as a citizens’ initiative.

On environmental review, Rivas contends the project will face rigorous oversight on the other side of the ballot box.

A slew of oversight organizations — the state Coastal Commission, State Lands Commission and the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District, among others — would still have to review the project after voter approval “to make sure it’s the safest it can be,” Rivas said.

“These are not new regulators to us,” she said. “They do that now with our operations — new and existing. They will have the same oversight in the future of our operations.”

If voters do sign off on Venoco’s proposal, company representatives say Carpinteria and the county would be entitled to royalties and revenue of as much as $200 million. Venoco has also said 20 acres of coastal land would be donated to the city as open space, and $5 million will be donated to the Carpinteria Education Foundation.

The reservoir would also have property taxes, to the tune of $250,000, associated with it that Rivas said would return to city coffers.

Some residents have raised concerns about making sure the money makes its way back into the community.

Rivas said the only way the money wouldn’t end up back in Carpinteria is if the initiative doesn’t pass.

As tempting as the offer could be for anemic city finances, Measure J has received a largely prickly reception from Carpinteria decision makers.

The council voted unanimously to put the measure on the ballot, but the only other option the city had was to approve the project outright. The city has spent almost $300,000 appealing a Superior Court ruling to put the item on the ballot in the first place, which is still mired in the appellate process.

City staff plan to hold informational meetings on the measure, but “there is no objectivity coming anywhere from the council chambers,” according to Rivas, with the council taking an official stance against the project last month. Rivas encouraged the public to read the initiative, which can be viewed by clicking here.

If the ballot measure fails, Rivas says Venoco still has the obligation to develop that oil field, and will go offshore if it must.

However, “if it goes offshore, they don’t have a say,” Rivas said of Carpinteria, adding that that’s why the company wants residents to have a chance to vote on the matter.

What could be extracted from the field, somewhere around 11,000 barrels a day, isn’t significant when compared to larger sources like Saudi Arabia, Rivas said. But she said that all of the leases off the California coast, including Venoco’s, add up to a significant dent in the demand for domestic oil.

“We see a great benefit from an oil project perspective as well as from a community perspective,” she said.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).




comments powered by Disqus

» on 03.01.10 @ 06:47 AM

Drill baby, drill! We need the money!

» on 03.01.10 @ 11:54 AM

The following sentence in the article creates a misleading impression: “Rivas said getting the ballot measure approved is only the first step because the Carpinteria General Plan doesn’t have provisions for slant drilling.”

This is incorrect. If passed, Measure J would rewrite the city’s General Plan (as well as the city’s zoning code, which is actually what currently disallows slant drilling from onshore locations) to allow Venoco’s project to go forward. While there might be other legal hurdles that the Paredon project still would have to clear, they would all be outside Carpinteria’s jurisdiction. As far as Carpinteria law is concerned, passage of Measure J would mean that Venoco’s slant drilling project was approved to go forward. Indeed, Measure J goes further than that, requiring that no future changes to Carpinteria’s planning laws would be allowed, if those changes might “frustrate” Venoco’s drilling for oil from within city limits.

Although it wasn’t really covered in the article, it is this aspect of the initiative that has raised some of the strongest concerns in the community: By rewriting the city’s planning laws to create exemptions specifically crafted to benefit Venoco, Measure J would undercut the intent of those laws, and compromise a process designed to preserve Carpinterians’ quality of life.

» on 03.01.10 @ 01:06 PM

In my opinion journalism is all about unbiased facts and sharing different viewpoints of complex issues. I do hope that NOOZHAWK takes the initiative to connect with the people who have a different view point than Mrs Rivas and thus provide the readership a complete picture of this multifaceted Measure J.

» on 03.01.10 @ 01:41 PM

I see that Lara Cooper has added an additional sentence clarifying that Measure J would, in fact, rewrite the Carpinteria planning laws to allow the project to go forward. Thanks for clarifying that.

» on 03.01.10 @ 01:53 PM

If measure J is so controversial then those who see it that way should articulate why. What I observe from outside the Carpentaria city limits is a company wishing to do what it is in the business of doing and has drafted some legislation to get it done with maximum benefit to the community. I see a community with a big NIMBY problem that will see any attempt by a company to do business with the city as hostile. Once we get through all the little sticking points of the law and concentrate on the idea then we see where the problem lies. Those who use oil in everything they do but don’t want the nasty side of oil production anywhere near them. And those who use oil in everything they do and realize we need to get back to being a producer economy once again. Draw the line in the sand if you must but those on the producer side win automatically. Those on the other side can starve if they want to but I think when they get really hungry, cold, tired and wet they will come to their collective senses and cross that line. After all you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

» on 03.01.10 @ 03:13 PM

is this a news article or a public relations piece? why wasn’t anyone else interviewed for the story?

» on 03.01.10 @ 03:58 PM

Hey Noozdove, I felt the same way considering Noozhawk’s previous article and headline (http://www.noozhawk.com/local_news/article/021710_carpinteria_council_opposes_venoco_paredon_initiative/), which almost made it sound like the Measure had already lost at the hands of City Council, I would say that this piece reflects fair and balanced journalism on the part of Noozhawk.

Every news article does not need to include comments from both sides.

What I don’t see addressed here is that the provision for a ballot measure like this is to allow for citizens to be protected against an agenda driven council that can’t or won’t understand the majority view of any subject.  Just because they were elected doesn’t mean that they represent the majority of their “constituents” on every issue.  They may not even represent the majority opinion of those that got them elected (which in Carpinteira, really is just a handful of people).

Venoco is doing what any person or company would do if they felt their ability to accomplish something reasonable wasn’t being heard by the gatekeepers of opportunity.  The initiative process is a protection for the community, not a process to circumvent safety and responsibility (like the opposition would like you to believe).  If the initiative process is such a threat to the community, then why is it even an option? 

Because in certain circumstances, its the right thing to do.

The next step is for the council to take away this right and opportunity from any future development or projects.  Just watch.

» on 03.01.10 @ 05:42 PM

Thanks to Justices Roberts and Kennedy, Venoco is just another “person”, and has the First Amendment “right” to spend as much money on political “free speech” as anyone in the small City of Carpinteria.

Since Venoco has millions and millions of revenue dollars at stake, should it
surprise anyone that they’re going to spend whatever they think it takes to confuse voters enough to override their own locally elected government, and community guidelines?

This special election was called by Venoco, based on an oil drilling iniative drafted by Venoco, with signatures collected by people paid by Venoco.

And that was before the Roberts court intervened to help that poor, helpless
“person” Venoco, by letting them spend as much as they want on the election.

Ridiculous!

Too bad the Constitution does not allow an initiative to remove Roberts and
Kennedy, whose ludicrous, reactionary ruling has disgraced the Bench.

» on 03.01.10 @ 06:30 PM

Hey Noozdove, I felt the same way considering Noozhawk’s previous article and headline (http://www.noozhawk.com/local_news/article/021710_carpinteria_council_opposes_venoco_paredon_initiative/), which almost made it sound like the Measure had already lost at the hands of City Council, I would say that this piece reflects fair and balanced journalism on the part of Noozhawk.

Every news article does not need to include comments from both sides.

What I don’t see addressed here is that the provision for a ballot measure like this is to allow for citizens to be protected against an agenda driven council that can’t or won’t understand the majority view of any subject.  Just because they were elected doesn’t mean that they represent the majority of their “constituents” on every issue.  They may not even represent the majority opinion of those that got them elected (which in Carpinteira, really is just a handful of people).

Venoco is doing what any person or company would do if they felt their ability to accomplish something reasonable wasn’t being heard by the gatekeepers of opportunity.  The initiative process is a protection for the community, not a process to circumvent safety and responsibility (like the opposition would like you to believe).  If the initiative process is such a threat to the community, then why is it even an option? 

Because in certain circumstances, its the right thing to do.

The next step is for the council to take away this right and opportunity from any future development or projects.  Just watch.

» on 03.01.10 @ 09:54 PM

Venoco is talking out of their hat again.  Simply stated they’re nothing more than a special interest which has paid to get special legislation, for which they are the sole beneficiary, on the ballot.  Their ballot measure, Measure J, simply ignores some environmental impacts identified in the EIR, and those it does include are framed in a manner than allows them to identify, mitigate and monitor those environmental impacts as they see fit. Measure J also allows Venoco to bypass any further review or regulation by the city and although other regulatory agencies will have to weigh in, whatever they decide may become binding upon Carpinteria. 
The question then becomes, do Carpinterians want their city planning to be done in closed corporate boardrooms rather than in open public hearings?  I for one certainly hope not….

» on 03.01.10 @ 10:03 PM

This article reads more like a paid advertisment by Venoco!

At first I admit I was all for the drilling project-who wouldn’t want to receive “up to” $200 million dollars for their community?  Then sadly ‘real’ information about the project started trickling in, like how Venoco tricked many of the 1000 signitures they gathered, by telling people their taxes would be reduced and the offshore rigs would be no more-mmmmmm smell a rat anyone.
The way they dresses up people in military outfits and had them door knock trying to sway voters to support the paredon project was disgusting-these people weren’t locals, but paid by a swanky pr company.

I just really wanted to get educated and the information I read today made me 100% sure this initiative is bogus, a wolf in sheeps clothing-more proof?
‘Looking for some interesting reading? Venoco, Inc. [NYSE: VQ] posted their annual report as required by law. Details their $695 million of total debt, litigation from cancer patients, lawsuit about underpaying royalties, and more.
Go to “Financial Analysis” links on http://www.citizensagainstparedon.org’ -wow this site definitely opened my eyes up to the sneaky ways of Venoco
There will be nothing to be gained for Carpinterians if this special interest initiative passes except the danger of losing a beautiful small town and gambling with the health & safety of our friends, family & neighbors.

» on 03.01.10 @ 11:37 PM

Yes, more Venoco disinformation here, in a controlled setting where there was no opposition.  To those who felt the last article about the City Council vote to oppose Measure J didn’t include enough pro-Venoco information, consider that Venoco didn’t even show up to the meeting to present their case at a high-profile, televised public meeting.  And I encourage those who commented on the last article to ask their hero Mr. Armendariz what he thought of Venoco’s no-show—I did.

If they are as interested in working with the community as they claim, then why don’t they do it?  Measure J opponents were at the special Council meeting laying their cards on the table.  The Council voted against Measure J because it is bad for Carpinteria in a number of ways, as was quite eloquently and convincingly presented at the meeting.

Instead, Venoco is running the most sleazy, underhandedly sophisticated state-of-the-art PR campaign that money can buy.  They’d already spent $150,000 on the campaign by December 31, led by $48,000 to a political strategy consulting firm based in Oakland.  Now they have hired a polling company (who would appear on the surface to be a neutral 3rd party) to call local voters and ask leading questions and give misinformation in those questions.  How sleazy is that?  They prefer to operate that way rather than appear in public and make their case directly, in a setting where their propaganda can be rebutted and exposed.

To cite another misstatement by Ms. Rivas in the above article (not the first time she’s made it, and I’ve had correspondence with her where she acknowledges that the reality is different from what she says publicly), there is no guarantee of any $5 million donation to the Carpinteria Education Foundation if the measure passes.  The amount of donation to CEF (if any) is contingent on the amount of royalties generated (if any).  Venoco does not guarantee any of the “estimated $200 million” royalty figure that they like to throw around, or of the $5 million to CEF—not one dime.  The CEF portion is not even in the initiative, so there is nothing legally enforcible on it even should the measure pass.

And of course, everyone knows that the 20 acres that they want to donate as open space is contaminated from previous operations, right?  Is that why she doesn’t say it—because everyone knows already?

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

 

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.