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State Releases Draft Environmental Impact Report for Venoco Oil Project

Pipeline plan calls for expanding drilling via 40 new offshore wells from Platform Holly.

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The recommissioning of Pier 421 is among several ventures Venoco has planned to expand oil and gas development in the South Ellwood area. (Sonia Fernandez / Noozhawk photo)

The draft environmental impact report for Venoco‘s South Ellwood full-field development project has been released by the California State Lands Commission.

“This is a significant milestone in the South Ellwood full-field development and pipeline project,” Venoco president Bill Schneider said. “We’ll now be focused on the project approval hearings, which commence later this year.”

The project aims to drill farther into the South Ellwood oil field from about 40 new wells extending from existing well slots at Platform Holly beneath protected waters just south of the UCSB campus. According to Venoco, a little more than half of the estimated 2.1 billion barrels of oil in the South Ellwood oil field is in the undeveloped area.

The project is one of several Venoco ventures in the pipeline intended to expand oil and gas development in the Ellwood area, including the recommissioning of its Pier 421 on the far eastern side of Haskell’s Beach, and the renewal of the lease of its Ellwood Marine Terminal, a facility on UCSB grounds.

Project proponents have asserted that approving the new wells would pave the way for a 10-mile pipeline from the Ellwood onshore facility near Bacara Resort & Spa to the Las Flores Canyon processing facility, bringing an end to transportation of the crude by barge.

The proposed development has been challenged by several environmental groups, including Get Oil Out and the Citizens Planning Association, for what they deem as “a new project tacked on to old facilities.”

Critics have lobbied for the pipeline to be built sooner than later, given the barge Jovalon’s single hull and the fact that it is the last remaining barge operation on the West Coast. Other offshore oil and gas operations have switched to pipelines.

The CSLC, in its draft environmental impact report, has indicated that the environmentally superior alternative would be to bypass the Ellwood marine terminal and the Ellwood onshore facility and pipe the oil and gas directly to Las Flores Canyon from the rig.

“Even if our clients oppose additional drilling from Platform Holly, if it is to happen, it looks like the environmental impact report picked a better alternative,” said Linda Krop, chief counsel at the Environmental Defense Center, which represents GOO and CPA as well as the Sierra Club and Citizens for the Goleta Valley in this matter.

Public comment on the impact report will go into late August. Click here to view the document.

Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be contacted at [email protected]

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