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Venoco Asking Goleta, Coastal Commission for Emergency Permit to Truck Oil

Company says it needs to clear out tanks, pipelines in advance of inspections; production would remain shuttered

Venoco is asking the city of Goleta for an emergency permit to truck oil from its processing facility in western Goleta.
Venoco is asking the city of Goleta for an emergency permit to truck oil from its processing facility in western Goleta. (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk photo)

Venoco Inc. is asking the city of Goleta and the California Coastal Commission for emergency permits to truck crude oil and other liquids from its Ellwood processing plant.

The request for the interim permit — two tanker trucks per day for 17 days — would allow the company to clear out crude and other liquids from two tanks on its offshore Platform Holly, two tanks at the Ellwood plant in western Goleta, and the associated pipelines, according to a letter signed by Keith Wenal, the company's manager of health, environment and safety.

If approved, the permit would not allow Venoco to restart production on Holly, which has been shut down since shortly after the Plains All American Pipeline failure and oil spill May 19 near Refugio State Beach.

A company spokesman indicated Venoco wants to move out the oil in advance of inspections scheduled for next month, and also is concerned about keeping oil in lines that are designed for constant flow.

The request is to truck out some 5,500 barrels — or 231,000 gallons — that would be taken to the Phillips 66 Santa Maria Pump Station in Santa Maria and the Santa Paula Crimson Truck Rack in Santa Paula.

If those facilities are not available, the oil would be taken to Bakersfield.

Each truck would carry 160 barrels or 6,720 gallons.

The request is being made on an emergency basis, the spokesman said, because the regular process for such permits normally takes 6-7 months.

After the Plains pipeline was shut down following the spill, the southern Santa Barbara County offshore oil and gas operations of Venoco, ExxonMobil and Freeport-McMoRan were stopped, since the platforms had no way to move the oil to refineries. 

ExxonMobil previously had asked Santa Barbara County for permits to truck oil from its processing facility in Las Flores Canyon. 

That request, which would have allowed ExxonMobil to restart its local production, was denied.

A letter from the California State Lands Commission, signed by Executive Director Jennifer Lucchesi, supports Venoco's request, noting that removing the oil "will reduce the risk and magnitude of any potential spill while the platform and (Ellwood processing facility) are temporarily shut down."

She also noted that removing the oil will facilitate the Lands Commission staff's inspection of Venoco facilities.

Valerie Kushnerov, a city of Goleta spokeswoman, confirmed that the city received an emergency trucking permit from Venoco.

"It is incomplete at this time. Once we have the complete application, we can provide more information," she said. 

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton 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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