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Locals Question Planned Oil Capacity Increase

Local environmental groups spoke out last Wednesday against Carone Energy Petroleum’s recent proposal to increase offshore oil production at Platform Hogan in the Santa Barbara Channel.

Carone Petroleum has operated Platform Hogan and nearby Platform Houchin — located in the Carpentaria oil fields between the central coast and Channel Islands — for over 20 years. The company aims to use slant drilling to expand oil production capabilities from the platform.

According to Environment Defense Center Chief Council Linda Krop, increased drilling could create numerous environmental hazards.

“Increasing the life-span of this platform — as well as its associated infrastructure — would increase the risk of all sorts of impacts, including the risk of oil spills, as well as air pollution, water pollution and safety issues,” Krop said.

However, Carone Energy Spokesman Lance Itnon said the company’s oil space rigs employ various precautionary measures that exceed county safety standards.

“The platforms were built to actually be located in the North Sea, where there are significantly more challenging environmental conditions,” Itnon said. “So they are over-engineered for the Santa Barbara Channel. Moreover, the Federal Bureau of Oceans and Energy Management recently certified that both platforms are capable of surviving 1,000 year earthquakes. … The models for each of these reservoirs show that the chances of [worst-case discharge] are zero.”

Itnon said the new drilling procedure will utilize electric-powered rigs to diminish diesel air pollution and avoid damage to the ecological “hot spot.”

“There is not enough reservoir pressure remaining to push the oil content to the surface. There is virtually no possibility of an uncontrolled release from the oil project,” Itnon said. “The only major change is to put in an electric-powered drilling rig, which will displace a diesel-powered rig, and in the process significantly reduce diesel emissions from the drilling operation.”

Platform Hogan became operational in 1967 and was California’s first offshore oil rig to be located in federal waters. The following year, the rig spilled roughly 2,000 gallons of crude oil into the ocean.

Congresswoman Lois Capps said she hopes the federal government will take the time to properly investigate the case and acknowledge the potential risks associated with increased production.

“I have real concern with Carone Petroleum’s proposal to drill off our coast [as a result of] oil spills, air and water pollution and, of course, the age of Platform Hogan, one of the oldest in Santa Barbara County,” Capps said in a press release. “Federal agencies are just beginning the analysis of all the potential environmental impacts of this project. I fully believe a full evaluation needs to be done and will ensure that it is. Our economically valuable and environmentally sensitive coastline deserves nothing less.”

Krop said the Environmental Defense Center will continue to contest Carone’s proposal as well as campaign against new platform construction.

“We are mostly focused on trying to prevent any new leasing or development, but to the extent that any production is already happening here, we want to make sure it is done as cleanly and safely as possible,” Krop said.

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