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Tuesday, March 19 , 2019, 11:04 pm | A Few Clouds 50º


Carpinteria Legal Fees Reportedly Top $180,000 in Venoco Challenge

City Council will meet in closed session Monday about whether to appeal ruling on Paredon voter initiative

A legal contest between the city of Carpinteria and a Venoco-backed voter initiative has been ongoing since February, a process that’s not only proved lengthy, but costly as well.

City sources have confirmed that, to date, Carpinteria has spent about $180,000 in legal fees opposing the measure, which would appear on a ballot in the future. A judge recently shot down the city’s challenge and officials are weighing whether to appeal.

For more than a decade, Venoco has been planning an extended-reach drilling project that would produce up to 11,000 barrels of oil a day, according to the project’s final environmental impact report. The project, known as Project Paredon, originates with a140-foot drilling rig to be installed at Venoco’s Dump Road processing facility.

If the project is successful, Venoco officials have said, the oil company 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 of California would receive from the project.

Carpinteria City Attorney Peter Brown filed a 26-page complaint in February, challenging the legality of the measure, just two weeks after the company filed the voter initiative. The city contends a ballot measure could supersede the environmental and planning responsibilities that fall to jurisdictions, while Venoco representatives say residents should get the chance to vote on the issue.

Last week, Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Thomas Anderle denied a request from the city to keep the item off the ballot. Anderle’s ruling would compel Brown to draft language for the ballot by Sept. 1, and the city council will weigh in early next week as it discusses whether it will appeal. The council is scheduled to hold a closed session on the issue Monday.

Brown, a lawyer with Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck LLP who has represented the city since 1992, did not respond to several Noozhawk attempts to contact him.

Mayor Gregg Carty said the council has yet to make a decision on the matter, but that it doesn’t take the decision lightly.

“I believe the use of the initiative process is an extremely important constitutional right and we must look at this very seriously,” he said. “We’re still looking at Judge Anderle’s decision in detail and are considering our options.”

Carty did not comment on the cost of the city’s legal bills.

City Manager Dave Durflinger said he couldn’t comment on whether the city was planning to appeal, but said the council had discussed the item in closed session at its Aug. 3 meeting.

Brown has provided the city with financial information about the project’s legal costs and Durflinger said the city’s finance team was in the process of confirming those numbers.

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

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