A group of neighbors who live next to a natural gas plant and storage facility in Goleta have agreed not to appeal the project in exchange for increased oversight.
Last June, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors approved the move, paving the way for Southern California Gas Co. to drill from its existing plant near the Rancho Mobile Home Park for natural gas and store the gas in the La Goleta Storage Field, which the company has operated since 1941.
The decision would allow the company to drill and operate up to four wells for production, without the use of hydraulic fracturing, of natural gas at the La Goleta site in order to expand gas storage capacity.
Company representatives stated that the drilling would stop after two years, but about two dozen neighbors showed up to express concerns about chemical leaks, vibrations and traffic.
On Tuesday, however, they said they had reached an agreement with the gas company to provide for a more robust oversight and monitoring process.
The gas company issued a statement saying it looks forward to working with the people in the area on the project, which will benefit the entire community by providing local supplies of natural gas to meet demand and help lower costs.
"It will also add to the capacity of the storage field, creating an important supply and price-stability cushion during periods of high natural gas usage, such as prolonged or intense cold weather periods," the statement said. "SoCalGas is sensitive to the interests of our neighbors, and has listened to our stakeholders in this process. We are taking necessary steps to maximize the benefits and lessen any effects to our environment and community."
GAD-NO said the company agreed to voluntarily participate in the county's environmental quality assurance program and a process for pursuing future upgrades to some of the facility's equipment.
“This is a good neighbor agreement to provide mechanisms and a process to address some of the most important issues to GAD-NO and the community," said Marc Chytilo, who is representing the group.
The facility isn't going away despite potential impacts, he said, and the increased oversight focuses heavily on noise, visual impacts, and cultural and biological resources.
"The applicant will work with the community to identify the existing equipment of the greatest concern, and expedite upgrades to the extent they can, including public safety review," Chytilo said. "We believe this is a reasonable accommodation of competing interests, and we are encouraged by the gas company’s desire to work constructively with their neighbors.”