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Local News

Environmental Defense Center Files Lawsuit Against Orcutt-based Energy Company

The Environmental Defense Center has filed a lawsuit in federal court against Pacific Coast Energy Company, alleging violations of the Clean Water Act.

The lawsuit alleges that PCEC has been illegally discharging polluted storm water.

The suit claims that the Orcutt-based company is discharging total suspended solids, oil and grease and potentally other pollutants.

“PCEC’s polluted runoff is especially concerning given the facility’s egregious history of oil spills, which includes over 100 documented spills at the Orcutt Hill operation,” said Alicia Roessler, EDC staff attorney, in a news release. "According to its own data, the facility has been discharging polluted storm water into our creeks and rivers for the past several years."

Pacific Coast Energy Company did not immediately respond to Noozhawk calls and emails.

The company conducts oil exploration and development activities using enhanced oil extraction techniques such as cyclic steam injection at its 5,400 acre Orcutt Hill oil field operation, according to the EDC.

The pollutants flow into Orcutt and San Antonio Creeks, which drain into the Santa Maria River and the Pacific Ocean, the EDC states.   

Those waters provide habitat for threatened and endangered species, such as the unarmored threespined stickleback, the tidewater goby, the red-legged frog and steelhead trout, "and are used for public recreation and enjoyment," the news release states.

The lawsuit comes after the EDC's notice letter on April 16. EDC says that it and the PCEC have been unable to resolve the dispute since the notice letter was filed. 

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors in 2016 denied the company's request to more than double the number of wells it operates, to 192 from from 96. 
  Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina 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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