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Venoco’s proposed Paredon Project

We are dismayed and astounded that the Venoco Oil Company is now trying to convince Carpinteria voters through a so-called “initiative” and great promises of money that it should be above the law and be able to bypass the City’s public review process for its proposed Paredon oil drilling project. They want to rewrite our local planning policies–ones that the community has worked long and hard at to bring to a currently high professional level–to suit themselves. Why should they be granted an exemption? Do we really want to put our small town up for sale? If we make an exception for Venoco, who next? Is this how we want to plan our community?

Our Citizens organization did not hold itself or the City above the law when we developed the Viola Playing Fields ten years ago. Even though this was an environmental project with no public opposition, we supported the City in taking the project through the normal public review process. Venoco’s project on the other hand, if approved, would create a huge number of potential significant impacts related to our community’s health & safety. It would be irresponsible for anyone to approve such a project without diligent public review.

As it turns out, Venoco’s attempt to get an initiative on the ballot with the help of their outside PR firm from Oakland, California is illegal. We support the City of Carpinteria’s current legal challenge to this clever but illegal attempt to bypass our local planning process.

Below is a brief summary of the legal challenge.

The Legal Challenge to Venoco’s Oil Drilling Initiative
& Venoco’s Attempt to Bypass Further Public Review:

1. Venoco’s initiative is not a legislative act (allowed by California law) but is an attempt to effect administrative matters of the city (not allowed by California law)
2. The initiative is inconsistent with Carpinteria’s General Plan and attempts to amend that Plan without further public review to accommodate Venoco’s oil drilling project (Paredon)
3. The initiative is unconstitutionally vague and misleading
4. The initiative violates Art. II section 12 of the California Constitution (prohibiting conferral of powers or duties on a private corporation)
5. The initiative violates CEQA, attempting to sidestep the normal CEQA process of City (and public) review
6. The initiative would impair essential government functions of the City of Carpinteria (such as issuing permits for the project without proper administrative review)

For current information on the community effort to fight Venoco’s ballot measure, presently called the Paredon Oil & Gas Development Initiative, go to CitizensAgainstParedon.org.


[Below is the information on the City’s normal review process for the Paredon Project. Had Venoco not abandoned the normal review process, the City would have reached a decision about the Paredon Project by now, as you can see from the former schedule.]

Important Upcoming Dates

NOTE: This schedule is still in flux (Revised: April 6, 2008):

June 11, 2007–Release of Public Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR)
(Start of 62-day public comment period)

June 26, 2007–Public Workshop on EIR starting at 6 PM at Carpinteria High School in the Multi-Purpose Room

July 30, 2007–Public Comment Meeting on EIR at the City Council Chambers

August 9, 2007–End of Public Comment Period

March 6, 2008–Release of Final EIR (NOTE: digital &/or hard copies available at City Hall)

May 19, 2008 at 5:30 PM (rescheduled from April 9)–Environmental Review Committee public meeting at the City Council Chambers

Summer/fall, 2008–Planning Commission Hearings

Fall, 2008 and/or winter, 2009–City Council Hearings

[Ted Rhodes, a professional photographer as well President of Citizens for the Carpinteria Bluffs, has crafted the above photographic collage to put the proposed Paredon Project in approximate scale with several other local landmarks including the Eucalyptus trees featured in the well-known logo of the Citizens group. He has also added his own single-story home into the collage, in scale with the drilling rig. (Other photographers & graphic artists are beginning to create a host of images regarding Paredon and the possible impacts such a project might have, if approved, upon the community.)]

Brief Description of Venoco’s Project:

Venoco, the oil company that took over Chevron’s local oil and gas processing facility, is proposing an oil and gas development project that may create significant environmental impacts upon the Carpinteria Bluffs, the adjacent neighborhoods of Concha Loma and Arbol Verde, and the greater community of the Carpinteria Valley.

Venoco is proposing, as the focus of their Paredon Project, to construct an oil drilling rig on their onshore site behind City Hall that will “slant drill” 35 oil wells. The purpose of these wells is to allow Venoco to tap into two offshore oil leases. According to Venoco, the drilling rig will have a maximum height of 140 to 175 feet. According to Venoco, the drilling operation will last approximately 4 years, but Venoco has also stated that “workover” drilling could occur throughout the life of the project, which they estimate will be “approximately” 14 years.

You may also want to view Frequently Asked Questions for a fact sheet giving a brief overview of the Paredon Project. You can find this FAQ section and other important planning documents related to Paredon including the draft EIR itself and the City’s planning timeline for approving or denying this project) on the City of Carpinteria’s website.

The Environmental Review Process Has Begun

Venoco’s application for a permit regarding this proposed project entered the preliminary stages with the City, beginning with the Environmental Review process, now underway. The first public meeting regarding the Paredon Project took place on June 13, 2006 at an Environmental Review Committee (ERC) meeting in the Carpinteria City Council Chambers. At that meeting, the ERC accepted input from several dozen individuals and community organizations (CVA and Citizens for the Carpinteria Bluffs) regarding the scope of the Environmental Impact Report that the applicant will have to make during the environmental review process for this project. The City continued to accept input on this matter until June 26, 2006.

The Carpinteria Valley Association (CVA) crafted an information gathering petition for the scoping of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) regarding a number of critical environmental issues that they believed needed to be addressed by the City before any EIR on this project was completed. Over 500 individuals from the community filled out these petitions and turned them into the Community Development Department, City of Carpinteria by that June 26 deadline.
Serious Environmental Issues

Citizens for the Carpinteria Bluffs believes that there are a host of serious environmental issues raised by the Paredon Project. One of the foremost ones that we will be studying closely is the Visual/Aesthetic Impact that such a project would have upon the Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve and the Viola Fields Playing Fields (as well as upon other places in our town). Noise, traffic, lighting, accidental leaks, pollution, and risk of upset are also special concerns to us. We will continue to participate in all public input phases of the Paredon permitting process to ensure that the City of Carpinteria and its planners examine these issues closely and diligently in their decision making.

These and other issues the Citizens group will raise on behalf of the over 3000 generous and passionate donors from the Carpinteria Valley and beyond, who, from all walks of life, worked so hard to make the dream of saving the Carpinteria Bluffs a reality.

2008 Update:
What is our Stand on Paredon?

By Ted Rhodes
President, Citizens for the Carpinteria Bluffs

[The following piece originally appeared in the December 13, 2007 issue of the Carpinteria Coastal View]

Because of the Citizens’ long-standing interest and involvement in the Carpinteria Bluffs, many people have asked us whether our Board has taken a position regarding Venoco’s proposed Paredon Project.

Since our founding in 1996, our mission has been “to preserve forever the Carpinteria Bluffs as open space.” Even now, long after we successfully completed that daunting public acquisition of the Bluffs, many of us continue to work diligently to protect this special place.

Earlier this year, waiting for the City to release its draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on Venoco’s Paredon Project, our board voted to hold off taking any stand on the project. We wanted to walk through the public process with everyone else to analyze the issues and the impacts as they unfolded. We also refrained from joining a coalition of environmental interests who oppose the project and which includes the Carpinteria Valley Association, Get Oil Out!, the Sierra Club and the Environmental Defense Center.

Although it would be presumptuous for us to speak for all the donors who contributed to saving the Carpinteria Bluffs, we can at least speak for the land itself. After careful and extensive analysis by our board of the draft EIR, that states that the proposed Paredon Project will have a number of significant, unavoidable, Class I impacts upon the Bluffs, we find the project unacceptable. [NOTE: “Significant,” “unavoidable,” and “Class I” are legal terms used to describe the highest type of environmental impacts–ones that cannot be mitigated to any negligible level.]

Venoco’s proposed 140 to 175 foot high oil rig, if approved, will tower above the tree line at the Bluffs and drastically alter the natural, quiet character of the nature preserve and interrupt the unspoiled views westward from both the preserve and the Viola Playing Fields. In addition, the City has identified a Class I impact for the project regarding its “Risk of Upset” to the public, meaning an explosion or accidental release of hazardous materials could endanger people, pets, and wildlife at the Bluffs and in the adjacent neighborhoods. Another Class I impact identifies oil spills that could devastate fish, marine mammals including Harbor Seals, and marine plants as well as onshore plants and wild life. Such a spill would also have a “significant” and “unavoidable” impact upon outdoor recreation. In addition, we believe that noise levels will have a far greater impact than stated in the report due to the City’s lack of appropriate noise thresholds for passive natural areas such as the Bluffs. This is an oversight that we have asked the City to rectify.

Because of these significant, unavoidable Class I impacts upon the Bluffs, Citizens for the Carpinteria Bluffs finds it must oppose this project. We are now joining EDC and the other coalition groups–Carpinteria Valley Association, Get Oil Out, Sierra Club Los Padres Chapter, & Santa Barbara Channelkeeper–in that endeavor to ensure that this special, breathtaking place called the Carpinteria Bluffs that the community worked so hard to save remains protected. We must safeguard the Bluffs and protect the City’s investment in the property, in perpetuity, as a nature preserve and recreational area. To do any less would be a betrayal of our mission and our promise to the community.

Ad #1
In October, 2008, the coalition ran 5 educational ads in the Coastal View to address a number of current popular myths concerning the “urgent” need to drill for oil on and off our shores no matter what impact this might have upon the environment. Our first Paredon ad addresses the myths that increased oil production would reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign oil and lower the price we pay for gasoline at the pump. The fact is that we will remain dependent on foreign oil, and we will not be able to drill ourselves to lower gas prices.

Ad #2

Our second Paredon ad deals with the myth (left) that oil production is now safe, making oil spills and other accidents a thing of the past. The fact is, oil production continues to be inherently risky and dangerous. Oil spills are still commonplace in 2008.

Our third Paredon ad (right) deals with the myth that oil drilling is good for our local environment, because it will reduce oil seeps in the Santa Barbara Channel. The fact is, oil drilling will not reduce oil seeps and may, in fact, increase them.

Our fourth Paredon ad addresses the myth that Venoco’s proposed Paredon project would generate hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for Carpinteria, and then, in 15 years, the drilling rig operations would be gone. The fact is, Carpinteria would likely see a fraction of the money promised, and we might have to live with the project for decades. Is our health and safety worth risking? Carpinteria should not be up for sale.

Our fifth Paredon ad focuses on a statement made by the chair of the Carpinteria Valley Chamber of Commerce in a letter to the Coastal View explaining the Chamber’s endorsement of the Paredon project despite the fact that Venoco project, if approved and developed, could seriously threaten our local tourist economy and our local real estate values as well as put the community at large at a huge environmental risk in terms of health and safety.

Venoco erected a construction crane on site for a few days in November, 2006 to simulate the heights of the proposed drilling rig during the several phases of the proposed drilling operation.

A view of the simulated oil drilling rig from near the Bailard parking lot of the Carpinteria Bluffs Nature Preserve

We intend to maintain and update this webpage to keep you and other members of the community well informed and “in the loop” as Venoco’s Paredon Project advances through the public planning process.

Meantime, see you at the Bluffs…or at one of the upcoming hearings!