Excelaron appeals rejection of bid to drill oil wells in Huasna Valley

dsneed@thetribunenews.comMarch 13, 2012 

Excelaron proposed oil drilling at sites on the second ridge behind the Mankins Ranch in the Huasna Valley east of Arroyo Grande.

DAVID MIDDLECAMP — dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com Buy Photo

Excelaron, the oil company hoping to drill as many as 12 oil wells in the Huasna Valley, has appealed the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission’s rejection of the project.

The appeal was filed Monday and should be heard by the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors within the next couple of months, although no date has been set yet, said John McKenzie, county planner for the project.

The Planning Commission on Thursday voted 4-1 to deny the Excelaron project, citing a variety of concerns including noise, fire danger and incompatibility with the rural character of the area.

“There is no substantial evidence in the record to support the findings for project denial” was given as the reason for the appeal.

Carol Florence, Excelaron’s planner for the project, said the commission did not try to balance the benefits of the project with its impacts. The main impacts would be limited to the drilling phase of the project and the others, such as the fire danger, could be reduced or eliminated through mitigations, she said.

The idea of drilling for oil and trucking it out is very unpopular with many Huasna Valley residents who say they cherish the quiet and idyllic lifestyle of the isolated valley.

The project was first proposed in 2006 and calls for an exploration phase of four wells. If the oil deposits are considered viable, as many as eight more wells would be added.

Hot water would be injected into the wells to reduce the oil's viscosity and make it easier to pump. The project would be limited to 1,000 barrels a day, which would be trucked out with a maximum of six round trips a day.

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