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Monday, January 21 , 2019, 4:52 pm | Fair 62º


Venoco Recommissioning Presentation Rouses Emotion at Goleta Council Meeting

Goleta officials let State Lands Commission representatives have an earful Tuesday during a presentation about the planned Venoco Inc. recommissioning project.

Even though the Goleta City Council appears to be on the same page as the state commission, which in April asked Venoco to provide further environmental review documentation regarding plans to start producing oil from the Haskell’s Beach pier, officials adamantly reiterated opposition to the project as is.

State Lands Commission representatives, who were in town Monday for a public hearing on the same subject, presented the Recirculated Draft Environmental Impact Review to the Goleta City Council during an afternoon session.

Like locals who spoke Monday, city officials were interested in the long-term picture — wanting Venoco out sooner than later.

Venoco wants to restart the 421-2 pier, which stopped production 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 (set to close after Platform Holly stops producing), are within Goleta.

Commission staff recommended the project be approved as is, but wanted to also analyze the Las Flores Canyon facility as an alternative for processing — an option discussed Tuesday.

The public comment period for the recirculated EIR closes next Wednesday, after which the commission will consider and respond to comments and certify the document. 

Venoco’s project would then enter Goleta’s permitting process for the portions taking place within the city.

Anne Wells, Goleta’s advance planning manager, outlined changes made in the EIR released in July, including different alternatives for the project.

The changes include: a modified project objective to return the 421 lease to production; reorganizing the alternatives and analysis of related impact in one section; new analysis of Las Flores alternative; language changed from “no project alternative” to processing on the piers; “no production/quitclaim 421 alternative” added to require the state to terminate and quitclaim the lease (with payout to Venoco) but pressure testing and decommissioning would not occur; and an expanded Vaqueros Reservoir Repressurization discussion moved to the safety section.

Commission expert Steve Kern presented information on repressurization, explaining that natural groundwater movement can cause seeps. He said more data would be needed to decide what long-term effects or risks might be.

City Councilman Roger Aceves asked whether resuming 421-2 would relieve pressure for two seep-susceptible wells out there, and was informed that it would.

Goleta seems to have lost some ground since the last discussion, Councilman Jim Farr said, asking whether the state commission wanted Venoco to pump oil again, either.

“There is enormous concern about the Ellwood Onshore Facility and how it should be used,” he said. “I don’t want to see Goleta pushed around here by Venoco or the State Lands Commission.”

Farr asked that Goleta officials have a place at the decision table.

State commission representatives said while they, too, would like to see oil operations cease sooner than later in its 20-year life, Venoco has a right and obligation to produce under its lease with the commission.

Councilman Tony Vallejo questioned whether a seismic event could trigger a seep — yes, Kern said — and learned hard-to-locate leaks could happen even without that jarring.

Commission staff said they understood Goleta’s frustration, but Mayor Michael Bennett summed up the city’s stance anyway.

“We clearly want to see the EOF go away,” Bennett said, adding his concerns about the full-field development. “The city will resist that at every level, and at every point, that we possibly can.”

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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