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Venoco’s Ellwood Operation Earns State Environmental Award

Conservation Department says facility exceeded required protections

Venoco Inc.’s Ellwood facility received its second environmental award from the California Department of Conservation for surpassing regulatory requirements, which are given out annually to various oil and gas facilities.

The agency’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources oversees onshore and offshore wells, and its Outstanding Field Lease and Facility Maintenance Awards go to operators that enhance safety and environmental protections.

The city of Goleta has been discussing emergency action plans with Venoco for the past few months, given a lapse in communication over an incident last year. Goleta sent the company two notices of violation in 2009, citing incorrect notification procedures in the event of a gas release, oil spill or unplanned shutdown.

A contained four-barrel leak occurred in November about 1 a.m.,but the city wasn’t notified until after 8 a.m., which city officials said was too late. Venoco representative Steve Greig said the incident’s volume didn’t trigger the requirement for notification, and the two organizations are working together to clarify these issues for the future so notification isn’t as subjective.

Venoco workers are trained to follow notification criteria, not make judgment calls, he said. Emergency measures put in place haven’t been activated for an energy-related incident to date.

Venoco operates many onshore and offshore facilities in the Central Coast area, including Platform Holly that produces oil and gas from the South Ellwood field, which is then transported onshore to its processing and storage facility.

According to the Department of Conservation, there are about 88,000 oil, gas and geothermal wells still in use in California, operated by about 570 companies.

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

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