Sunset on Holly: Two years after the Refugio oil spill, Venoco gives up Platform Holly, a move that underscores the debate over local oil industry

SBCAN members are quoted in this article by Joe Payne that ran in the Santa Maria Sun on May 17, 2017:

http://www.santamariasun.com/cover/16104/sunset-on-holly-two-years-after-the-refugio-oil-spill-venoco-gives-up-platform-holly-a-move-that-underscores-the-debate-over-local-oil-industry/

Platform Holly has stood alone in the South Ellwood oil field for decades as the Santa Barbara Channel’s last oil rig in California’s state waters. But it may not stay standing for much longer.

The platform’s owner, Venoco, announced on April 17 that it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy—which allows the company to reorganize assets—and quitclaimed the South Ellwood oil field, returning the lease to the state. With Venoco abandoning the field and platform Holly, the State Lands Commission will begin decommissioning the platform—a development that illustrates the decades-long debate in Santa Barbara County over oil production, especially offshore drilling.


ON THE HORIZON
Venoco announced its quitclaim of the South Ellwood oil field on April 17, which includes turning over Platform Holly for decommissioning by the State Lands Commission. Holly is the last Santa Barbara Channel oil platform in California’s state waters. (Photo source: www.flickr.com/photos/n28307/)
PHOTO COURTESY OF GLENN BELTZ

 

Venoco made clear its reason for shutting down Platform Holly: Since Plains All American Pipeline stopped all transport of Venoco’s crude from its Ellwood Onshore Facility after the Refugio oil spill in 2015, the platform was dead in the water. Plains’ Line 901 leaked more than 140,000 gallons of oil into the ocean on May 19, 2015, marring coastline for miles in either direction with black, odorous crude, affecting businesses as small as family-owned fishing boats and as large as Venoco.

After Venoco failed to petition the State Lands Commission to adjust and expand the lease boundaries of the South Ellwood field earlier this year, the company had no hope for Holly. The move to walk away was due to a number of “unfortunate circumstances impacting the company’s financial strength,” Venoco’s COO Mike Wracher said in the company’s April 17 statement. The statement named Plains’ nonoperational Line 901 as a deciding factor.

“We have pursued a number of market-based and regulatory solutions to address these challenges during the last year,” Wracher said in the statement. “Despite these considerable efforts, our financial position now compels us to take this action.”

 

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Solvang forum draws small crowd to oppose more oil wells in county

This article by Mike Hodgson ran March 28, 2017 in the Santa Maria Times: 

http://santamariatimes.com/news/local/solvang-forum-draws-small-crowd-to-oppose-more-oil-wells/article_39e4da8e-17e0-56f9-8ad3-ab45049e89e5.html

About 20 people attended a Monday night forum in Solvang designed to gather support for blocking new oil wells in Santa Barbara County, pushing for full renewable energy sources in the county and state and ending California’s cap-and-trade program.

The group gathered in the Legion Wing of the Veterans Memorial Building to hear four speakers discuss plans for more than 700 “new” oil wells in the county, the potential for wells to contaminate groundwater, restrictions on developing alternative energy and the failure of the cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Speakers were Alena Simon, Santa Barbara County organizer; Adam Scow, California director of the national nonprofit organization Food & Water Watch; Rebecca August, of Safe Energy Now; and Ken Hough, of the Santa Barbara County Action Network.

Their presentations and audience questions were reserved until Andy Caldwell, executive director of COLAB, the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business, questioned some of the statements and claimed they were misleading scare tactics.

Then interactions between Caldwell and audience members became contentious and nearly deteriorated into an arguing match before organizers calmed things down and began disbanding the meeting.

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SLO County supervisors deny Phillips 66 oil-by-train project appeal

This article ran in the online version of the Santa Maria Times March 14, 2017: http://santamariatimes.com/news/local/slo-county-supervisors-deny-phillips-oil-by-train-project-appeal/article_55572b43-9066-5c36-9b00-fa9d0ee43aba.html

With a 3-1 vote Tuesday, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors denied appeals filed after the Planning Commission last year voted down Phillip 66's contentious oil-by-rail proposal. 

North County Supervisor Debbie Arnold was the lone dissenter in the decision. Chairman John Peschong recused himself from the hearing that began Monday because of his consulting background with the oil industry.

"My fear is that today's decision puts trucks on the road with highly flammable material," Arnold said in her dissent.

Phillips 66 has applied for a development plan and coastal development permit to modify its existing rail spur at the refinery and install rail unloading facilities at its Nipomo Mesa refinery in order to bring in unrefined heavy crude oil there via train.

Project plans also call for extending the facility's existing rail spur, and constructing five parallel tracks and a rack area to allow unloading up to three oil trains per week, not to exceed 150 a year.

Trains would consist of 80 rail cars carrying approximately 27,300 gallons each, totaling approximately 2.19 million gallons of crude oil. 
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SLO board chambers packed for Phillips 66 rail spur appeal hearing

This article ran in the Santa Maria Times on March 14, 2017: http://santamariatimes.com/news/local/slo-board-chambers-packed-for-phillips-rail-spur-appeal-hearing/article_f2c42f00-c286-5324-896e-de401444f542.html

The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors chambers once again were filled with opponents of a controversial proposal by Phillips 66 to bring crude oil to its Nipomo Mesa refinery via trains.

About a 160 people turned out Monday in San Luis Obispo for the first day of an appeal hearing of the county Planning Commission's denial late last year of the proposed project. Half of those spoke during the daylong meeting.

Phillips 66 has applied for a development plan and coastal development permit to modify its existing rail spur at the refinery and install rail unloading facilities at the refinery in order to bring in unrefined heavy crude oil there via train.

Project plans also call for extending the facility's existing rail spur, and constructing five parallel tracks and a rack area to allow unloading up to three oil trains per week, not to exceed 150 a year.

Trains would consist of 80 rail cars carrying approximately 27,300 gallons each, totaling approximately 2.19 million gallons of crude oil. 

The Planning Commission turned down the proposal in a split vote last October after eight public hearings and hours of public testimony. Most speakers voiced opposition to the plans.

Those voices, which came from far and wide, didn't change during Monday's public comment portion of the appeal hearing, which will continue at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the County Government Center, 1055 Monterey St. in San Luis Obispo.

"This is the first time in 15 years we have ever spoken outside Santa Barbara County," said Ken Hough, Santa Barbara County Action Network executive director. "We never had the need to ... until now."

Hough told the four supervisors — Chairman John Peschong recused himself from the hearing because of his consulting background with the oil industry — his organization stands with Santa Barbara County in its opposition to the proposed rail spur project.

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City dedicates Tom Urbanske Levee Trail

This article by Logan B. Anderson was published in the Santa Maria Times on June 10, 2016: http://santamariatimes.com/news/local/city-dedicates-tom-urbanske-levee-trail/article_1de607a8-92f2-5642-a2f0-f19302e5f9f2.html

The Santa Maria River Levee is there to protect city residents from potentially dangerous mountain water runoff and as a place for folks to gather along its trail to exercise and see Santa Maria’s plants and wildlife.

Earlier this year, some residents reached out to the city with an idea to dedicate the levee’s trail to someone that, like the levee, has worked to protect residents and bring them together.

Thomas Urbanske served as a city councilman and county supervisor for decades. Before entering into public service, Urbanske touched many lives as an educator in Santa Maria.

City officials and others gathered Wednesday morning at the Seaward Drive entrance of the multi-use levee trail to rededicate it the Tom Urbanske Levee Trail.

“Today is a special day for all of us in Santa Maria,” Mayor Alice M. Patino said in a letter read during the ceremony.

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Santa Maria River Levee Trail Recognizes Tom Urbanske

This article by Janene Scully was published in Noozhawk on June 10, 2016: https://www.noozhawk.com/article/santa_maria_river_levee_trail_recognizes_tom_urbanske

A multipurpose trail in Santa Maria sports a new name to recognize a former member of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors and his years of service to the Santa Maria Valley.

“This will be a lifelong legacy for our community and the Urbanske family,” Recreation and Parks Director Alex Posada said during a ceremony celebrating the naming of the Tom Urbanske Multipurpose Trail.

The City Council earlier this year agreed to recognize Urbanske's service by naming the trail for him. Urbanske is credited with spearheading efforts to allow recreational uses on the levee trail.

The approval process for naming the trail took approximately a year after Jeanne Sparks and Barry Stotts first presented the proposal to city officials. 

“It took awhile, but it got done,” said Sparks, who worked as Urbanske’s aide while he was a county supervisor and now is with Santa Barbara County Action Network.

“And we have to thank the staff for their effort on it because it did take coordinating with the county and they made that happen. We’re just happy,” Sparks added.

“Tom has been such a driving force in this community. He’s done so much as a county supervisor, as a city councilman and before that as a high school teacher and counselor and he’s still involved in nonprofit boards. He’s just so deserving, I'm glad to see this trail named after Tom.”

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Buena Vista Beautifiers Speak Up to Protect Key Features of Santa Maria Park

Buena Vista Beautifers Speak Up to Protect Key Features of Santa Maria Park

The group wants the park's bell-shaped concerete sidewalk to stay, but it's not included in the renovation design approved by city officials

Some of the biggest supporters of Buena Vista Park in Santa Maria are upset at the city’s proposed design for the park’s renovation.
Some of the biggest supporters of Buena Vista Park in Santa Maria are upset at the city’s proposed design for the park’s renovation. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)
This article by Janene Scully ran in Noozhawk on May 16, 2016: http://www.noozhawk.com/article/buena_vista_beautifers_speak_up_santa_maria_park_20160516
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SBCAN receives $7,500 grant from Fund for Santa Barbara

            The Fund for Santa Barbara recently awarded a $7,500 grant to Santa Barbara County Action Network to support the organization as it addresses environmental, social justice and civic engagement issues.

            “We appreciate the generous support from the Fund for Santa Barbara,” said SBCAN Executive Director Ken Hough. “This award will help us with our mission to promote social and economic justice, to preserve our environmental and agricultural resources, and to create sustainable communities.”

            During 2016, SBCAN plans to develop initiatives and seek implementation funding in the following areas: 1. Healthy communities coalition, building on the State of California’s Health in all Policies Program, 2. Bicycle and pedestrian safety in North County, seeking to emulate similar initiatives in South Coast, and building on the Santa Barbara Bike Coalition’s plan to retain staff in North County, 3. Risks from transport of highly volatile oil to the proposed Phillips 66 rail terminal, 4. Community Choice for Clean Energy, 5. Promoting raising the minimum wage, and 6. Promoting even-year local elections to help ensure more voter participation.

            SBCAN received the grant on January 4.

            For more information about SBCAN, visit www.sbcan.org, or email info@sbcan.org, or call (805) 563-0463.

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Hobnobbing with Helen

Hobnobbing with Helen

BY HELEN ANN THOMAS

As published in the Santa Maria Sun June 11, 2015: http://www.santamariasun.com/news/13283/hobnobbing-with-helen/

When I went to an event Sunday night, June 7, at the Santa Maria Inn, I did not expect to see the likes of Congresswoman Lois Capps, Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider, and 1st District Santa Barbara County Supervisor Salud Carbajal.

But there they were in a room full of 140 folks who came to the Santa Barbara Community Action Network’s (SB CAN’s) North County “Looking Forward” annual awards dinner.

The trick of making an awards dinner something other than a big ho-hum is injecting something unexpected and fun into the program. SB CAN did just that.

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Santa Barbara County Action Network to honor North County residents

Awards dinner slated for Sunday

What: Santa Barbara County Action Network's North County Looking Forward Awards Dinner

When: 5 to 8 p.m. Sunday

Where: Historic Santa Maria Inn, 801 S. Broadway in Santa Maria

Tickets: Dinner tickets cost $65 per person for members and $70 for nonmembers. Tickets can be purchased at sbcan.org

Here are the awards to be presented — and their recipients: 

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Santa Barbara County Action Network
Santa Barbara County Action Network (SBCAN) works to promote social and economic justice, to preserve our environmental and agricultural resources, and to create sustainable communities.