Friday, September 30 , 2016, 5:39 pm | Fair 71º

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Local News

Groups Appeal Santa Maria Energy Project Decision

Several environmental groups have joined efforts to appeal the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission’s approval last month of a Santa Maria Energy oil-development and pipeline project.

The Environmental Defense Center on Friday filed an appeal of that action to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on behalf of the Community Environmental Council, Los Padres Chapter of the Sierra Club, Get Oil Out and the Santa Barbara County Action Network.

The groups are calling for stricter environmental conditions on the North County oil company's project, which the commissioner approved Sept. 25 in a 3-2 vote that was split due to differing opinions about carbon-emissions thresholds.

Santa Maria Energy has been seeking approval to install 136 production oil wells, connecting pipelines and other oil equipment on leased property south of Orcutt since 2009.

Recent planning commission approval also made way for a related project to install an 8-mile underground recycled water pipeline to the Laguna County Sanitation District.

On Friday, the Community Environmental Council sent an email to its supporters to inform them of the filing, and to extend thanks to the 240 people who wrote letters last week in opposition of the project and the commission decision.

Nathan Alley, attorney for the EDC, filed the appeal within the 10-day window, citing two main reasons.

The appeal alleges that the commission erred in its decision-making process because commissioners were not shown a county planning document that requires a 10,000-metric-ton emissions threshold on projects until another standard is adopted, Alley said.

Environmental groups also allege an abuse of discretion, saying commissioners did not have evidence necessary to come to their decision to adopt a 29-percent threshold, which amounts to 62,480 metric tons per year.

“It’s essentially a repackaging of arguments,” Alley told Noozhawk. “I’m hoping that the arguments we’ve made are a little clearer to the board than they were to the commission.”

Bob Poole, Santa Maria Energy's public and government affairs manager, said Friday that news of the appeal was “unfortunate” because of how thorough the project had already been vetted.

He said the company has received many letters of support from community members since the decision, many happy to finally see the economic merits of the project.

“It’s a duplicative process that already has been conducted extensively,” Poole said. “With such a thorough analysis, it just seems like a waste of everybody’s time and efforts. Here we are with a delay again.”

Poole said Santa Maria Energy will work to address issues found in the appeal, which officials had not yet seen because it was delivered just before 5 p.m. Friday.

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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