The Environmental Defense Center (EDC), Get Oil Out! (GOO!), and Citizens Planning Association of Santa Barbara (CPA) announced today that they have signed an historic and unprecedented agreement that will allow for development by Plains Exploration + Production Company (PXP) of the Tranquillon Ridge Oil and Gas Field off Lompoc, while curtailing the life of existing oil and gas operations offshore Lompoc and the Gaviota Coast. The agreement further requires PXP to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect significant lands in the County.
"The cornerstone of this agreement is the requirement that oil and gas development in both the Tranquillon Ridge and Pt. Pedernales Fields will cease on December 31, 2022," said Linda Krop, Chief Counsel of the EDC, who represented GOO! and CPA in the negotiations. "Never before has an oil company agreed to a date certain end of production, making this a one-of-a-kind agreement. This guarantee by PXP to end oil production will protect our coast from oil spills, air and water pollution, and hazardous gas releases," she added.
"Without this agreement, PXP could indefinitely continue its current production from Platform Irene," said Abe Powell, President of Get Oil Out! "With this agreement, we are doing exactly what our name says -- we are getting oil out, not some unknown time in the future, but on a hard and fast date."
In addition to the establishment of an end date for production, the environmental groups secured an unprecedented agreement from PXP that will result in zero net greenhouse gas emissions from the project through emissions reductions and offsets.
"Given the status of climate change, and California's commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the Tranquillon Ridge Project will serve as a model for how other industries can offset their emissions," said Krop. "To ensure that some offsets will occur locally, PXP will contribute an additional $1.5 million to a local fund that can be used to reduce emissions through the purchase of hybrid buses."
The agreement came about following a proposal by PXP to expand its existing production from Platform Irene (located in federal waters), currently being sent to the Lompoc Oil and Gas Plant (LOGP) via both off and on shore pipelines. PXP's proposed expansion involves slant drilling from Platform Irene into the Tranquillon Ridge Field located in state tidelands between PXP's existing federal lease and the shore. PXP is already "draining" the Tranquillon Ridge Field with its existing wells, but permission to drill further into that field will allow PXP to more efficiently extract the oil.
The three groups initially opposed PXP's proposed project because it would have significantly expanded the life of the existing facilities, resulting in additional risks and impacts. A similar proposal to develop the Tranquillon Ridge Field, by Nuevo Energy Company, was opposed by environmental groups for these same reasons and denied in 2002 by the County of Santa Barbara.
In an attempt to obtain support from the environmental groups, PXP offered to shut down its entire operation (both existing and new development) in 2022, when the existing Pt. Pedernales Project is slated, but not required, to end. PXP has also agreed that the 2022 end date will apply to its existing Lompoc Onshore Oil Fields and has committed to terminate its Gaviota Coast operations, i.e., the Pt. Arguello Project, comprised of Platforms Hidalgo, Harvest and Hermosa, and the Gaviota processing site, by 2017.
Finally, the environmental groups and PXP partnered with The Trust for Public Land to convey about 3,900 acres of PXP land to TPL for public protection. The bulk of the donated land, approximately 3,700 acres, is located near Lompoc, adjacent to the Burton Mesa Ecological Reserve. Included in this donation are lands currently used for onshore oil production and the 800-acre Purisima Hills site that was recently proposed for residential development. As part of the deal, PXP will withdraw its application for this project. Up to 200 more acres of land is located along the Gaviota coast.
"Preserving thousands of acres in the Lompoc uplands for permanent protection is the icing on the cake," said Steve Dunn, President of CPA, a group that not only opposed the original Tranquillon Ridge proposal, but also the Purisima Hills development project. "Through this agreement, we will guarantee an end to oil development from four separate projects, significantly reduce greenhouse gases and preserve important lands for future generations," he concluded.
The Environmental Defense Center protects and enhances the local environment through education, advocacy, and legal action and works primarily within Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties. Since 1977, EDC has empowered community based organizations to advance environmental protection. Program areas include protecting coast and ocean resources, open spaces and wildlife, and human and environmental health.
Get Oil Out! is a non-profit corporation whose mission is to protect the natural environment and beauty of the Santa Barbara Channel from the adverse effects of oil development.
Citizens Planning Association is a non-profit corporation formed in 1960 dedicated to defending the County's natural resources and upholding the County's planning policies and objectives.