Thursday, September 18, 2008

Goleta weighs in on offshore oil


The fallout from a recent decision by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors to embrace expanded offshore oil exploration continued Tuesday night, when the Goleta City Council made it clear the “Good Land” stands firm in its opposition to drilling.
The council voted 4-1 in favor of drafting a resolution that will be sent to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Board of Supervisors and other political leaders that expresses the city’s steadfast opposition to any further offshore oil and gas exploration in the vicinity of Santa Barbara County.

The vote arrived a week after a similar action by the Santa Barbara City Council. Both councils said the motive behind the symbolic resolutions are in response to the supervisors’ controversial 3-2 vote to send a letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that essentially said the county is open to broadening the scope of offshore oil operations.
Goleta Mayor Michael Bennett said he felt it important to reiterate the city’s position, despite clear language in the city’s general plan that opposes further drilling.
“I did not agree with their decision,” Bennett said of the Board of Supervisors. “I believe it’s important for a resolution to go on record.”
Perhaps no community on the South Coast is as tied to the politically charged issue as Goleta, where the skeletons of abandoned offshore drilling operations litter the coastline, and Venoco Inc. continues to barge oil up and down the coast from the Ellwood Marine Terminal.
Goleta Mayor Pro Tempore Roger Aceves, who requested the item be placed on the council’s agenda, reminded residents and business owners who may have dollar signs in their eyes when thinking about oil to think twice. Aside from property tax revenues from the Ellwood Marine Terminal, he said the city receives no money from offshore drilling, and wouldn’t even if new wells began popping up tomorrow.
“We do not get any benefit other than the impacts due to additional drilling off our shore,” he said. “Goleta suffers from the results of oil drilling. We’re the most impacted and we receive no benefit from this operation aside from future issues.”
Aceves pointed out that when discussing oil, it’s important to do so not in a fiscal context, since the city receives no monetary benefit, but environmentally.
“This is not an economic issue,” he said. “This is an environmental issue.”
While the majority of the council supported the resolution, no councilmember, with the exception of Aceves, supported a draft of the resolution that was talked about on Tuesday.
Bennett joined councilmembers Jonny Wallis and Jean Blois in their belief that the resolution should not refer to Venoco, which it did several times.
As a result, the council voted to amend the language in the resolution and discuss it again at the council’s Sept. 30 meeting. While the resolution stumbled slightly with the delay, the council majority said it favors adopting the resolution when the changes are made.
While Aceves agreed to go along with the amended language, he said the initial resolution mentioned Venoco because that company continues to express interest in expanding its operations in Goleta.
Aceves said he’s not only in favor of ensuring no additional offshore oil exploration occurs, but said he hopes to see Venoco operations at Platform Holly and other facilities in Goleta end when the leases are up.
The resolution reiterates his point.
“The City Council of the City of Goleta calls upon the State of California to preserve the California Marine Sanctuary and, relatedly, work with city officials to fashion a predictable end-game that brings about the decommissioning, removal and clean-up of Platform Holly, the Ellwood Onshore Processing Facility, Pipeline 96, the Ellwood Marine Terminal, and the oil piers on State Lease 421, sooner rather than later,” the resolution says.
Councilman Eric Onnen cast the lone dissenting vote. He read off a series of phrases he heard during public comment, such as, “more seeps, less seeps,” “end game,” “response to supervisors,” “the world is watching,” and said he didn’t feel dealing with any of those issues fit his job description.
“It’s interesting in that what we’re trying to deal with here are issues directly related to our community and the issues that motivate people go way beyond what I think I’m sitting here to deal with; what I think my job is as a city council person,” he said. “I don’t know that a resolution by our city really furthers our goals and objectives.”
Onnen pointed out the city’s clear opposition to drilling in the general plan, and said drafting a resolution does little more than further polarize the opposing sides of the issue.
He urged his colleagues to, “Do what’s right for our city first, don’t use our city as a vehicle to promote some of these other issues.”
After the meeting, Aceves said he doesn’t believe there’s anything wrong with reaffirming the city’s stance in the general plan, and said he isn’t sure why a city council person would vote against doing such.
“I’m just extremely pleased that council voted to move this forward,” he said. “I thought it was important that our city goes on the record, even though it is in our general plan, and send a resolution reminding the county that our city is strongly opposed to new oil drilling off our coast.”

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