The Goleta City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding with the California State Lands Commission for the management transfer and oversight of Venoco’s Ellwood facilities.

The California State Lands Commission (CSLC) is relieving Goleta from associated regulatory responsibility or liability while ensuring city staff has the information to address public health, safety, the environment and resident concerns. 

“Instead of just proceeding with these verbal discussions that we have had with the state….it solidifies what’s going on and the fact that the state is relieving us of our regulatory responsibility and liability,” said Advance Planning Manager Anne Wells. “The memorandum of understanding does some things for us, aside from relieving us from some liability that we would have, it also ensures that we get timely reporting, communication and regular meetings.”

City staff negotiated the memorandum of understanding to memorialize the CSLC’s assumption of regulatory authority over the Ellwood facilities for the purposes of the Platform Holly and offshore Oil and Gas Lease No. PRC 421 plug and abandonment operations.

“It sounds like we are giving a lot away, but we are getting a lot back,” Wells said.

Click here to view the provisions of the memorandum of understanding between Goleta and the CSLC regarding oil and gas facility jurisdictional issues.

“This is a continuation of the great work that our staff has done in establishing the great relationship with the State Lands,” Council Member Michael Bennett said during the council’s comment period. “It has been a long-term process, and our staff deserves kudos because they recognize the importance of State Lands and working with them.”

Linda Krop, chief counsel for the Environmental Defense Center, submitted a public statement acknowledging the city’s work.

“I’m pleased that the CSLC and the city have reached agreement on this topic, and that things are moving forward with the plugging and abandonment of the wells associated with Platform Holly and PRC 421, as well as the decommissioning of the piers, caissons, pipelines and cables, shoreline access road and revetment,” Krop said.

The CSLC has jurisdiction over the offshore portions of Venoco’s former leases — the 32 oil and gas wells and Platform Holly and portions of the offshore Oil and Gas Lease No. PRC 421 piers and caissons below the mean high-tide line, according to city staff.

It doesn’t have jurisdiction of the onshore portions of the leases, which are in Goleta’s boundaries. 

According to a staff report, because these facilities are essential to the CSLC’s efforts to plug and abandon the 32 wells, and because the CSLC is undertaking this work on behalf of the state for purposes of preserving public safety and the environment, the CSLC has assumed regulatory authority over the Ellwood facilities, effectively preempting the city’s land-use jurisdiction. 

“The CSLC has determined that this exercise of the sovereign power of the State is the most efficient and practical way for the CSLC to safely and expeditiously complete the necessary work,” the city staff report said.

Venoco quitclaimed its interests in offshore Oil and Gas Lease No. PRC 421 and Platform Holly off the coast of Goleta to the CSLC in April 2017.

In the same month, Venoco and its affiliates filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware.

The state’s Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources issued an order requiring Venoco to plug and abandon the 32 wells associated with PRC 421 (two wells) and Platform Holly (30 wells) in May 2017.

The CSLC entered into an agreement in June 2018 with ExxonMobil — the predecessor lessee to Venoco — to plug and abandon the 30 Platform Holly wells and the two onshore PRC 421 wells.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at bholland@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Brooke Holland, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @NoozhawkNews

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at bholland@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.