A group of local homeowners is appealing a decision to allow ChevronTexaco Corp. to abandon and remove pieces of seven miles of pipeline running through their residential neighborhood.

The Santa Barbara County Planning Commission approved the oil and gas company’s request to abandon the pipe, which runs through Hollister Ranch near Gaviota State Park, as well the project’s environmental impact report, on Jan. 23. The Hollister Ranch Homeowners Association appealed the decision soon after.

ChevronTexaco Corp. expected to begin the abandonment project, which requires the removal of some infrastructure and then re-vegetation, by late spring. Project Manager Bob Skiba said he is disappointed with the appeal because he is eager to move on with the project.

“At this point, we’re not aware of what specific things Hollister Ranch wants out of their appeal,” he said. “We don’t know what they’re asking for yet. If anything changes it won’t be that significant. We’ll find out more as time goes on.”

The approved project calls for the removal, at 38 locations, of exposed pipelines, pipeline supports and numerous concrete footings. The majority of the pipelines will remain buried, said county energy specialist Luis Perez.

“Where it’s exposed … we have to take it out. Underneath the creeks, we looked at what has more impact,” he said. “Does it have more impact to take it out or does it have more impact to leave it in place? In the majority of the cases, it was better to leave them in place.”

In order to reduce environmental impact, the Planning Commission approved leaving all the buried portions of the pipelines alone and removing only the cement footings that would not jeopardize erosion conditions in creeks and ravines. All other portions of the pipelines would be removed, including fences and related equipment.

“They will hopefully design ways of avoiding all those impacts by not removing the pipe and filling it with concrete so it’s inert or pulling it from a pit without having to trench or remove any vegetation or cover,” said Natasha Lohmus, an environmental scientist from the California Dept. of Fish and Game.

After construction, all work areas will be re-graded and re-vegetated in accordance with county stipulations.

The Santa Barbara County Energy Division said Texaco must develop a number of mitigation and monitoring plans, which would be approved by several regulatory agencies, to ensure protection of numerous resources.

The pipelines were installed in 1960 to transport oil and gas from offshore platforms Helen and Herman to Texaco’s oil and gas processing facility in Gaviota. The project operated until 1973 when the offshore wells were abandoned and the pipeline system was flushed with water. Laws from 1960, which did not carry the strict conditions for abandonment they do now, delayed a decision of what to do with the pipe.

“This was always on the backburners for the oil companies. It was hard to pursue something that wasn’t coming to fruition. It has come to fruition and we’re almost ready to get it out,” Perez said.

Skiba said the process takes quite a long time because it requires several years to permit a project like this one.

“We’ve worked hard over four years to come up with a plan that really satisfies what we need to do to remove the pipeline and protect the environment. So we’re anxious to do that and we’re looking forward to it,” he said.

Since the platforms were removed in 1988, as well as the gas plant and 1.6 miles of pipeline in 1997, abandonment of the Hollister Ranch pipeline is the mark of a continuing trend of the Planning Commission to remove inactive pipelines.

Another abandonment project, which will look at Cojo Marine Terminal near Point Conception, will go before the Planning Commission on March 27.

The Hollister Ranch Homeowners Association could not be reached for comment at press time. The Planning Commission, ChevronTexaco Corp. and the Homeowners Association will meet to discuss the appeal on March 15.