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State Lands Commission Calls for Further Work on EIR for Venoco Oil Production Project

Venoco Inc.’s plans to start producing oil from the Haskell’s Beach pier encountered a major setback Wednesday when the State Lands Commission asked for more information in the environmental review documents.

Venoco wants to restart the 421-1 pier, which was stopped after a spill in 1994 when Mobil still owned it. The oil and gas lease is within the state’s jurisdiction, but many of the processing facilities, such as the Ellwood Onshore Facility, are within the City of Goleta.

City leaders sent a letter to the State Lands Commission with concerns about prolonging the life of the Ellwood Onshore Facility, which is supposed to close after Platform Holly stops producing.

Commission staff recommended that the project be approved as is, but the commission wants to analyze the Las Flores Canyon facility for processing, said Eric Gillies, assistant chief of environmental planning and management for the SLC.

The environmental impact report considered Las Flores, but it didn’t fully analyze it as an alternative to the Ellwood Onshore Facility. Now the staff has to include that information and recirculate the documents for public review, a process that will take several months.

SLC staff hope to get the new draft EIR back to the commission by the end of the year, Gillies said.

They didn’t think Las Flores was a feasible alternative because of environmental impacts from running a pipeline all the way from the pier to the processing facility, about 9 miles, he said.

Wednesday’s decision was welcome news to the Environmental Defense Center, which is representing four community groups that oppose the project.

“The most important thing is not expanding, not prolonging the use of the Ellwood Onshore Facility and making sure the city has the information to make a decision that’s good for everyone,” EDC chief counsel Linda Krop said.

Goleta hasn’t determined whether it’s even legal for Venoco to process more oil and gas at the Ellwood Onshore Facility, and the city is in charge of distributing those permits.

“No one wants (processing) on the pier, and yet that’s the only alternative on the EIR,” Krop said.

State staff will also study pressurization and greenhouse gas emission mitigations in the new draft EIR, she said.

Venoco recently placed a pipeline between the Ellwood Onshore Facility and Las Flores Canyon for some of Platform Holly’s oil and gas and the new pipeline could run parallel to that one, she added.

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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