Letters to the Editor

Viewpoint on PXP’s oil plan: Innovative plan will benefit Central Coast

Citizens of the Central Coast have an outstanding record of environmental activism and advocacy. One issue that unites many of us is our concern about the impacts of offshore oil development on our coastal communities, environment and economy.

Together we have passed voter initiatives to discourage new oil facilities, supported moratoria on new leasing and fought legal battles in court. In particular, the residents and elected representatives in San Luis Obispo County have been leaders in preventing oil development off its shores.

The fight is not over. There are still too many platforms drilling off our coast and renewed pressure for more leasing. In the 21st century, we need to find new and innovative ways to solve old problems. Fortunately, we have come up with a plan that will end offshore oil drilling in California.

In partnership with environmental groups in Santa Barbara County, the Environmental Defense Center recently negotiated a landmark agreement with PXP that will phase out production from four existing oil platforms operating offshore of Pt. Conception. These platforms currently operate without any end date. Under the agreement, three of the platforms would be shut down in nine years, and the fourth would be shut down in 14 years. The onshore processing facilities would be removed. None of these facilities would be available to support new leasing and development. In addition, hundreds of acres of onshore oil wells will be shut down. As a further bonus, the agreement requires PXP to mitigate all of its greenhouse gas emissions and provide approximately 4,000 acres of land to the public for permanent conservation. No new construction or facilities would be allowed.

This agreement guarantees an end to oil drilling off our shores. That’s why it is endorsed by 20 major environmental groups in Santa Barbara County, as well as by our pro-environment county supervisors, City Council members and Rep. Lois Capps.

This plan will not only put an end to existing drilling operations but will also provide the greatest protection against new federal leasing in California. The four platforms that will be shut down pose the biggest threat for new leasing along our coast, because they can be used to access known reserves and are supported by existing infrastructure, making new drilling both attractive and economically profitable. Shutting down these platforms and removing the onshore facilities will therefore protect us from future oil leasing and development.

The Tranquillon Ridge plan was approved in October 2008 by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors. The proposal was endorsed by 25 groups around the county and the state and continues to enjoy bipartisan support from leaders such as Capps and Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee.

Unfortunately, the proposal was rejected 2-1 by the California State Lands Commission amidst concerns that the agreement was not enforceable. We are confident that if this project is brought back to the commission, these issues can and will be addressed.

It is not often that we have an opportunity to be creative and progressive in dealing with such a pressing issue facing the citizens of California. The proposed Tranquillon Ridge plan embodies large thinking and a creative solution. Most notably, this proposal puts us on the path to end offshore oil production in California and will help us make the transition to a clean-energy future.

We believe that support for innovative solutions such as this one is necessary to achieve our goals of coastal protection and phasing out fossil fuels. While an oil severance tax is a way to help solve California’s budget woes, it will not do anything to end offshore oil production and its impacts on our coast. We need many solutions to address our economic needs while protecting our environment. The proposal for an oil severance tax can and should go hand in hand with a plan to stop offshore oil drilling in California.

For more information about the Tranquillon Ridge plan, please visit the Environmental Defense Center Web site at www.EDCnet.org.

Linda Krop is Chief Counsel of the Environmental Defense Center, a public interest law firm.