Wednesday, April 25 , 2018, 5:31 pm | Fair 61º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Carpinteria Voters Give Resounding No to Venoco’s Measure J

The company's proposed oil-drilling operation suffers a lopsided defeat

Carpinteria residents sent a clear message to Venoco Inc. on Tuesday, voting decidedly against Measure J, the company’s ballot initiative to allow slant drilling to move forward from its Dump Road property.

The initiative received 2,209 no votes (70.06 percent) and 944 yes votes (29.94 percent).

Even before all of the votes had been counted, opponents of the measure were in high spirits late Tuesday. Ted Rhodes, co-chair of Citizens Against Paredon, said his group was pleased with the numbers.

“The people of Carpinteria have rallied passionately once again, as they did a dozen years ago to save the Carpinteria bluffs, this time to soundly defeat Venoco’s Measure J,” Rhodes said in a news release sent to Noozhawk. “Hopefully, this sends two strong messages to those proposing large, risky projects for Carpinteria: You need to play by the rules, and our town is not for sale!”

Venoco officials have said they could access up to 11,000 barrels of oil a day via extended-reach — or slant — drilling, and allow access to oil and natural gas in the Santa Barbara Channel without using an offshore platform.

Company representatives said the city of Carpinteria and Santa Barbara County would have been entitled to royalties and revenue of as much as $200 million. Venoco also said 20 acres of coastal land would have been donated to the city as open space, and $5 million would have been donated to the Carpinteria Education Foundation. To boot, the reservoir would have been subject to property taxes, to the tune of $250,000, that company reps said would have been returned to city coffers.

Venoco announced last February that it would took the issue to voters after years of wading through the city’s planning process. More than 1,000 signatures were gathered from Carpinterians, and because the city’s General Plan doesn’t have provisions for slant drilling at an onshore location, the ballot was brought before voters.

The company purchased the Dump Road facility where the slant operation would have been established from Chevron in 1999. Chevron had acquired permits for the site in the 1950s, and the facility was there before the city of Carpinteria incorporated in 1965. Venoco officials maintain the plant has been there as long as some of the residents, maybe even longer.

But the city of Carpinteria had been a vocal opponent to the project since company officials announced they would seek putting the item on the ballot. Their main complaint said the citizens’ initiative circumvented the environmental review process. Initiatives aren’t subject to environmental review before they’re passed, causing opponents to wonder how environmental concerns would be addressed.

The initiative said that if any part of Venoco’s specific plan was inconsistent with the city’s code or regulations, the plan would take precedence. It went even further to say that if official policies of the city “frustrate” the company’s purpose, the specific plan of the company had the authority to move forward.

Less than two weeks after Venoco filed the initiative, the city fired back with a 26-page complaint challenging the legality of the company’s future plans. Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Thomas Anderle denied a request from the city to keep the item off the ballot, but the city appealed the decision.

The city has spent more than $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. Members of the City Council went even further and voted 4-1 to officially oppose the project in March, even though it didn’t affect the voting process.

Opponents of the project organized, including a grassroots group called Citizens Against Paredon, and cried out that the area around the Dump Road plant was in an environmentally sensitive area, since it sits directly against the Carpinteria bluffs and a seal rookery sits at the base of the bluffs. The mammals co-exist with Venoco’s pier, which is used for oil and gas transportation.

They also took issues with the efficacy of revenue sharing, since the bill about sharing with local governments from new development on existing tideland leases expired in 2007.

Company officials have said that if the ballot measure were to fail, Venoco still would have the obligation to develop that oil field, and the company would go offshore if it must. But with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger withdrawing his support for offshore drilling after the BP oil spill, and two of the three frontrunners in November’s gubernatorial election opposing new drilling, it’s unclear when that would go forward.

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

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