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Monday, February 18 , 2019, 11:24 am | Fair 55º


Approval from Santa Barbara County Supervisors the Last Step for Venoco’s New Pipeline

The board will consider an ordinance allowing the company to begin transporting oil via a pipeline that has already been built, instead of by barge

Barges have been shipping crude oil from Platform Holly for nearly 50 years, but that era might soon come to an end if the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors gives the go-ahead on Tuesday. 

The board will be asked to approve an ordinance allowing oil company Venoco Inc. to begin transporting oil via pipeline instead of barge. Company officials believe that the barging operation is the last of its kind on the California coast.

A new 6-inch pipeline has been installed by Venoco that spans 8½ miles from the company’s Ellwood Onshore Facility, near Bacara Resort & Spa, and runs north along portions of Highway 101 and Calle Real to the Plains Pipeline System in Gaviota.

The pipeline will allow oil to bypass the Ellwood Marine Terminal, where barges currently fill their hulls with oil before transporting it to Los Angeles or Bay Area refineries. Venoco would begin decommissioning and cleaning up the terminal within six months of the pipeline becoming operational.

Talks of a pipeline have long been in the works, and an environmental impact report approved last summer stated that a pipeline would be superior environmentally. Fog represents a persistent navigational hazard to barging, and county officials believe that transport by pipeline would reduce air emissions significantly.

“It’s the environmentally sound alternative,” said Bob Nisbet, the county’s director of General Services, who will be presenting the project to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

Approval of the project was granted by the Planning Commission last summer. Pipeline construction began in October and was finished at the end of January. Nisbet said Tuesday’s agreement would allow the company to begin using what has already been built.

Lisa Rivas, Venoco’s community relations manager, expressed optimism on Monday about the pipeline.

“We share the community’s preference to transport crude oil by pipeline, which eliminates any risk associated with transporting crude oil on the open water,” she said. “The Venoco team, in addition to the contractors and regulators, worked very hard to get this pipeline installed.”

Approval means the county would grant a 20-year term to the Ellwood pipeline project, and Rivas said the line is currently being inspected and tested.

The public can come forward and speak about the project at Tuesday’s meeting, and then the supervisors will vote on the first reading of the ordinance.

The second reading of the ordinance is scheduled for Feb. 14, and if approved, would allow the pipeline to become effective immediately.

Tuesday’s meeting will begin at 9 a.m. in the Board Hearing Room on the fourth floor of the County Administration Building, 105 E. Anapamu St. in Santa Barbara.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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