A public scoping hearing took place last Wednesday, April 3, when citizens came to present their concerns and to suggest what an upcoming environmental impact report, or EIR, should focus on. The report is part of an ongoing process, dating back to 2003, to begin a project to restart production of an oil pipeline connecting the two rusty, aged piers that are up the beach from Isla Vista.
Back in 1994 there was a leak in the pipeline that took the oil from those piers into line 96. Mobile owned it at the time and they made the decision not to repair the pipeline and not to return the well to production. Stephen A. Greig, government relations manager for Venoco Incorporated, explained the current situation.
“All that this project is, is essentially turning back on that well,” said Greig. “That’s good news for the public and the environment…Now, instead of re-injecting the water into a different well that’s in the surf area, we’ll bring all the production into the Ellwood Onshore Facility, and that will allow us to abandon that one well and pier.”
The leak Stephen Greig referred to, according to Eric Gillies, assistant chief of the State Lands Commission Division of Environmental Planning and Management, was roughly around 50 barrels.
“This is what you call a scoping meeting before we prepare a draft EIR, and so what we are telling the public is we are going to be preparing a draft EIR and we are identifying certain areas that we feel are going to have significant impacts,” said Gillies of the meeting. “People bring up stuff like greenhouse gases…they wanna make sure that those issues are covered in the EIR.”
During the meeting, members of the public, some representing different organizations like Get Oil Out, the Environmental Defense Center, and the Los Padres Sierra Club, voiced their many concerns about the environmental impact of the project, including greenhouse gas emissions.
“We would like to point out and applaud the state lands commission for using a zero emission threshold for analyzing greenhouse gas emissions in prior EIR’s in this area,” said Linda Krop, chief council of the environmental defense center and an environmental studies instructor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “We urge you to use that same threshold so that we have a full quantification of emissions and a full potential mitigation should the project go forward.”
Krop went on to present other concerns that the EIR should address, such as the age and integrity of the infrastructure, the potential for leaks or spills, the issue of repressurization, and the possibility of using a different site at Los Floras Canyon for processing instead of the Ellwood Onshore Facility.
“This is one of the classic cases of wrong project in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s a very precarious location for a project like this, it’s outdated, it’s very risky,” said Krop. “It will pose significant impacts to our coastline.”
Linda Krop’s concerns were reiterated by the rest of the speakers, especially the issue of repressurization—a tricky problem, since it can only really be studied if Venoco is allowed to reopen the well.
The EIR should be completed around late spring and early summer, and it will then be opened for public review.
Photo Courtesy of Zach Todd