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Air Force Gives Initial Go-Ahead for Additional Oil, Gas Drilling at Vandenberg Base

A developer could soon begin drilling at Vandenberg Air Force Base after a feasibility study found that extracting offshore oil and gas from land sites could be a viable option.

Air Force leaders will meet this month to determine the best strategy to move forward with a possible Enhanced Use Lease (EUL) with an entity that wants rights to extract the offshore oil and gas, according to Auburn Davis, a public affairs officer for Air Force Space Command.

The news comes after completion of an Opportunity Assessment that explored the possibility of an extended-reach drilling project at Vandenberg, she said.

That months-long assessment was completed and submitted by the end of 2013.

No timeframe was immediately available for when drilling might begin.

“The assessment evaluated a number of considerations to include mission compatibility,” Davis told Noozhawk. “The assessment was the first of several steps that precede the Air Force’s ultimate decision on whether or not to execute a project in conjunction with other private and public entities. 

“In the event an oil company is granted a lease to extract oil by the State of California and executes an extended-reach drilling project from Vandenberg AFB, the Air Force is committed to working with all parties to ensure responsible development from the installation.”

Last year’s analysis, carried out by the Air Force Civil Engineer Center, came after 10 years of receiving inquires from oil companies — Sunset Exploration Inc. and ExxonMobil among them — and state and federal officials.

Vandenberg has accommodated oil drilling for many years, with a total of five active oil wells, according to Air Force Space Command.

Plains Exploration & Production Company (PXP) has four producing oil wells on base and Conway Energy operates one well.

U.S. law authorizes military services to lease nonexcess land for nonfederal development if the use doesn’t conflict with mission requirements, and is beneficial to the military service leasing the property.

Davis said the Air Force is considering several acquisition strategies for the potential EUL process, involving a lease of nonexcess land to a private developer in exchange for cash or authorized in-kind.

“In any case, all stakeholders will be involved with the process, and any potential selected developer would be responsible for completing all federal, state and county requirements,” she said.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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