As many of you may not know, Venoco Inc. has proposed a revamping and expansion of its oil development facilities. Just outside of I.V., these facilities are in a “legal, non-conforming” zone of Goleta, meaning that they were legal when built but are now an illegal presence since rezoning in 1990, when the area was labeled as “recreational and planned residential” land. Today, these facilities are surrounded by many neighborhoods and schools, including Ellwood Shores, Devereaux School and Isla Vista Elementary. Since 1997, Venoco has owned Platform Holly, only two miles off the coast from UCSB, the Marine terminal (on lease from UCSB until 2016) and the Ellwood Onshore Facility, all purchased from ARCO.
Now Venoco proposes to slant drill from its controversial 30-year-old platform into currently unprotected areas by building a 24-mile-long pipeline from here to Rincon in Ventura. This sub-sea pipeline would travel through the state-protected Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, presenting major risks to the ocean and marine life there, while also raising major concerns for local surfers who treasure the world-renowned Rincon.
But if that doesn’t bother you, this should: Venoco’s facilities are responsible for several oil spills and hydrogen sulfide gas leaks. Hydrogen sulfide, a deadly gas that causes respiratory failure and neurotoxicity, is invisible and odorless at 100 ppm or greater. In 1999, a hydrogen sulfide release from Holly directly impacted residents at UCSB, Hope Ranch, the Mesa and even as far south as City College.
A single oil rig, such as Platform Holly, can release around 90,000 tons of pollution each year and create the equivalent of 7,000 cars worth of air pollution. One only has to reflect on the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill to realize how devastating another major spill would be to our marine and coastal areas. The irony is that while Venoco seriously increases the recently estimated 99 percent probability of another major oil spill in California with its new drilling techniques, this county preaches strict environmental purity, spending millions to clean up Santa Barbara’s waters.
So what is the community proposing for Venoco? Well, the county and new Goleta City Council are currently analyzing a process of phasing-out, or amortization, which considers Venoco’s total investment, including acquisition and abandonment costs, in order to determine whether their rate of return is insignificant enough to force them to abandon the site. UCSB’s A.S. Legislative Council voted in favor of Venoco amortization earlier this month. Starting in 1992 with acquisition, Venoco should amortize around 2008, yet its plans are projected through 2016 when its lease on the UCSB-owned marine terminal is up, and even then there is little indication that it plans to abandon its land or profits.
Here’s where you come in. To ensure that Goleta and Santa Barbara are protected from further oil development (or oil catastrophe), the most effective thing that you can do as a citizen living near this plant is to show up at 1:30 p.m. for the Board of Supervisors public hearing on Monday, Dec. 3, on the 4th floor of 105 E. Anapamu St., Santa Barbara, for public comments. Carpool rides to this hearing will be leaving from the Bagel Cafe at 12:20 and 1:30 p.m.
You can also e-mail your opinions directly to 3rd District Supervisor Gail Marshall by 5 p.m. today at .
The hearing will present the economic analysis for amortization of Venoco, and then it is up to us citizens to state our opinions about the amortization. So please, just take the time to make a statement at the hearing on Monday if you can, whether for or against. It is your right to do so and will directly affect you and this coastline in a monumental way.
As we wonder just how seriously our health and security are threatened by terrorism, there are American companies on American soil destroying the very resources we rely on for sustenance every day of our lives (to maximize their precious profits, of course). And while exploiting indigenous peoples, pristine lands around the globe and even our own land for oil and gasoline, we rest assured that when the sticky black is all gone, we’ll just smoothly convert to the humane and clean forms of energy that have sat patiently waiting to be utilized. The truth of this situation is that even if we extracted all the oil that may lie off the coast of California, it would still barely make a dent in our national demand for oil. And a few days of oil are hardly worth the health and safety of you and I and the truly precious environment we enjoy here in Santa Barbara.
For more information on what you can do, call me at 968-3269.
Nicola Doss is a junior biology major.