County supervisors Tuesday will take up a controversial proposal to drill for oil in the secluded Huasna Valley.
Tuesday’s hearing is the last hope for a project that has pitted property and mineral rights activists against a group of valley residents determined to preserve their pastoral way of life.
On March 8, the Planning Commission voted 4 to 1 to deny the project. Many of the commissioners said they opposed the project because of its location in an area prized for its rural tranquility.
Excelaron, the company that applied for the project, immediately appealed the decisions, saying the commission overlooked the many steps it would take to reduce noise, fire danger, traffic and other impacts of the drilling.
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Supervisors are unlikely to come to a decision Tuesday. The hearing will start in the afternoon and will likely include several hours of public comment. If necessary, a second hearing date will be scheduled in June to discuss and vote on the item, said Supervisor Jim Patterson, who chairs the board.
Excelaron proposes to drill as many as 12 oil wells on the Mankins Ranch, 12 miles east of Arroyo Grande. Steam would be injected into the wells to thin the highly viscous oil.
Production would be limited to 1,000 barrels of oil per day, which would be trucked out with a maximum of six round trips a day.
Backers of the project say it should be approved because it will be an economic boost to the county. Lori Lawson of San Luis Obispo, who owns mineral rights in the Huasna Valley, said Excelaron has gone out of its way to address concerns.
“In these difficult economic times, for both the private and public sectors alike, the county should not be sending an unfriendly business message to developers, property owners or mineral rights owners,” she said in a letter to supervisors.
Opponents of drilling praise the Planning Commission’s decision, saying the project will have five significant impacts to the valley’s environment. These are: incompatibility with the surrounding area; odors; noise; harm to the area’s aesthetics; and harm to biological resources.
“They (planning commissioners) heard the concerns of Huasna Valley residents and acted accordingly,” said Susan and Timothy Heaton of Arroyo Grande in a letter to supervisors. “An oilfield and oil production facility is totally out of character in our serene, scenic and agricultural valley.”