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Local News

Judge Sides with Venoco on Carpinteria Ballot Measure

The city had challenged the oil company's plans for a slant-drilling project at its Dump Road facility

A ballot measure that would put a slant-drilling project before Carpinteria’s voters was allowed to move forward Tuesday.

Judge Thomas Anderle denied a request from Carpinteria City Attorney Peter Brown to keep the item off the ballot. Up until Tuesday, Anderle had granted a temporary stay on the ballot measure. Now, Brown will be forced to write up ballot language by Sept. 1, regardless of whether the city decides to appeal the decision.

Venoco Inc. has been planning its slant-drilling project for more than a decade, and would like to see a 140-foot drilling rig installed at its Dump Road processing facility. Extended-reach, or slant, drilling, would allow access to oil and natural gas in the Santa Barbara Channel without using an offshore platform. The proposal, known as Project Paredon, could produce up to 11,000 barrels of oil a day, according to the project’s final environmental impact report.

If the project is successful, the company said it will contribute $1 million a year for up to five years to the Carpinteria Education Foundation and donate 22 acres of land on its 55-acre Dump Road parcel to be designated as open space. An additional $200 million windfall could come to the community as a percentage of the $1 billion the state would receive.

The city of Carpinteria filed a 26-page complaint challenging the legality of the measure just two weeks after the company filed the voter initiative. In April, Brown was granted a stay on the ballot, but a request for a second stay was denied and the issue was ordered to go to trial.

Before Anderle ruled Tuesday, Tim Irons, legal counsel for Brown, maintained that “there is no constitutional right to place an invalid measure on the ballot.”

The Paredon Project is a development in a city, he said, that requires a coastal development permit. The city has taken issue with the land-use permits embedded in the initiative.

“The initiative mandates that the city issue a coastal development permit,” Irons said. “The issuance of that permit is adjudicatory,” and not in the “proper scope” of the people’s right to form initiatives.

“Fundamentally, it’s this administrative function that is being usurped from the city and transferred to the electorate,” he said.

In the end, Judge Anderle overruled that argument. The project’s Development Agreement also was stricken.

“We are pleased that the ruling vigorously defended the initiative process,” Venoco Vice President Mike Wracher said in a statement. “The citizens of Carpinteria should feel empowered by this ruling, and we will do our part to bring this initiative before the voters at the earliest possible date.”

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

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