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City of Goleta to Submit Comment Letter to State Commission About Venoco Project

Exactly what the letter says is unknown, but past councils opposed reopening the company's oil and gas wells at Haskell’s Beach

The City of Goleta doesn’t have control over Venoco Inc.’s oil production project getting approved, but it will be sending a comment letter to the State Lands Commission, city officials said Tuesday.

The city won't be making its own environmental impact report for the project, so it can only give input to the state's documents. City staff and council members didn't offer insight into what the letter says, but past councils were opposed to reopening Venoco's oil and gas wells at Haskell’s Beach.

City Council members said they were a bit frustrated that the state has the ability to approve the project, and asked about the city’s role in the process.

Even though the State Lands Commission can certify the EIR and approve the project, the City of Goleta and the California Coastal Commission get a say in permitting and other issues.

Venoco’s plan would reopen one of the wells on Haskell’s Beach piers and remove the other well and pier.

The environmental review documents assume there is mounting pressure in the oil reservoir these wells are drilled into, and the only way to fix that is to put it back into production, city planning manager Anne Wells said.

She noted that the state also believes Venoco has a right to keep producing from those particular wells.

If the city refuses to issue a permit for Venoco to use the Ellwood Onshore Facility — which it can — the company may revert to one of the alternatives: Processing the oil product at the pier itself, at Platform Holly or passing on the project altogether, Wells said.

The company has been trying to bring the wells back into production since 1997, according to government relations manager Steve Greig.

With so much effort for so long, Wells said it’s very doubtful the company would go for the no-project alternative if the city refuses access to the Ellwood Onshore Facility.

A few Goleta residents opposed the project during public comment, many who spoke at last week’s State Lands Commission meeting. They say the project has potential for another oil spill, pipeline leak or other environmental harm.

Doug Sillers, who has started a petition against the project, said the city should try to eliminate all oil drilling in the area.

The city needs to “take back the beach and the beautiful lands that are here,” he said.

His petition had 244 supporters as of Tuesday night.

One resident supported the project, since it would remove the second pier from the beach and decommission that second well. 

The state’s environmental documents found 16 significant and unavoidable impacts if the project is approved. Almost all of them are related to the potential of an oil spill from the well, flowlines or Line 96, which spans from the Ellwood Onshore Facility to the Las Flores Canyon facility.

The comment period for the EIR ends at 5 p.m. Friday, and comments can be submitted by email to [email protected] with the subject line “Revised PRC 421 recommissioning DEIR comments.” Comments also can be submitted to Eric Gillies, assistant chief of environmental planning and management for the State Lands Commission. He can be reached by telephone at 916.574.1890 and fax at 916.574.1885.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli 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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