South County oil drilling may undergo environmental review.
Monday, December 6, 2010
An oil company eyeing potential oil wells in South Monterey County may voluntarily agree to an environmental impact report (EIR), according to activists with Halt Oil Lease Development (HOLD).
Carpinteria-based Venoco Inc. has applied to drill nine new test wells on private properties in the Hames Valley and Bradley. The county approved Venoco's test-well drilling permit, but several citizen groups appealed, asking for a full EIR. The groups are concerned the test wells could lead to leases on thousands of acres in the area, where shale drilling might involve controversial "fracking" technology.
At a Dec. 4 community meeting convened by Halt Oil Lease Drilling (HOLD) in Lockwood, Steve Craig of the Ventana Conservation and Land Trust said a Venoco representative had told him the company might ask the county to pursue an EIR at the company's expense, rather than hiring a consultant to assess whether an EIR is necessary (also on Venoco's dime).
"This will save Venoco money and time, and all of us the endless rounds of appeals and then litigation to get the County to do the proper scientific thing and study the matter," state HOLD's meeting minutes. "The EIR will undoubtedly focus on the practices of deep horizontal drilling and fracking, which involve injecting a 'cocktail' of 35 to 40 chemicals in large volumes of water under high pressure into deep shale rock…Many communities where fracking has been allowed have had major issues with contamination of drinking water."
Venoco could not be reached for immediate comment.
The county Planning Commission will hear the appeal Wednesday, Dec. 8 at 1pm. Staff has recommended that the issue be continued to March 30.