Tuesday, April 24 , 2018, 8:24 pm | A Few Clouds 53º


Local News

County Continues Hearing on Santa Maria Energy Pipeline Project

Planning commissioners request another week to examine environmental impacts

Santa Maria Energy officials must wait at least another week before they can move forward with a proposed oil pipeline project, following the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission vote Wednesday to continue a decision for final approval.

How to best mitigate potential effects on the environment caused the five-member commission to vote 4-0 to continue a decision until next Wednesday’s meeting.

Commissioner Daniel Blough abstained from the vote because “I’m actually prepared to move the project forward today,” he said.

The delay tacks an additional week of planning review and consideration of public comment onto the 3½ years that Santa Maria Energy has already been waiting for a go-ahead.

In 2009, the North County oil company began a lengthy approval process to install 136 production oil wells, connecting pipelines and other oil equipment in its Orcutt location. A related project includes installing an eight-mile underground, recycled water pipeline to the Laguna County Sanitation District.

The privately held oil company, founded in 2002, extracts oil from 75 wells drilled into Monterey Shale and 26 wells drilled into a diatomite layer in Santa Barbara County on 4,000 leased acres at the Orcutt Field. The company uses cyclic steam injection to extract oil because the steam heats the oil in a well to a temperature that produces flow.

Planning commission staff on Wednesday spent three hours presenting information in the hope that commissioners would certify the environmental impact report and approve a comprehensive plan for an easement and a fee ownership for certain portions of privately owned properties for placement of the recycled water pipeline.

Planning staff, along with Santa Maria Energy and Laguna district staff, explained that the economic and environmental benefits of the project — including creating high-paying jobs and jump-starting local commerce — far outweighed any potential drawbacks. Pipeline monitoring systems were also discussed.

Article Image
(Santa Maria Energy graphic)

Possible impacts identified in the environmental report included oil spills, seeps and greenhouse gas emissions. 

Most of the 24 public speakers during the hearing were in favor of the project, many noting that they’ve taken a tour of the facility because of Santa Maria Energy’s transparent outreach to the community.

Santa Maria residents joined Santa Barbara stakeholders in the County Engineering Building via web camera.

Six speakers, including representatives from local environmental groups, said they were not against the project so much as wary of commissioners setting a precedent of not monitoring a proper emissions threshold by establishing standards on a case-by-case basis.

“Don’t rush to judgment,” said Linda Krop, chief counsel for the Environmental Defense Center. “It is feasible to mitigate these impacts.”

Although members of the planning commission called Santa Maria Energy a “model candidate,” most wanted an additional week to vet environment impacts.

“All my questions haven’t been answered,” Commissioner Cecilia Brown said.

The planning commission is scheduled to consider the item again at 9 a.m. next Wednesdayin the County Engineering Building.

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.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Maestro, Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover, Debit

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >