California Groups, Power Developer Sign Pact

The Environmental Defense Center (EDC), Get Oil Out! (GOO!), and Citizens Planning Association of Santa Barbara (CPA) announced April 10 that they have signed an agreement that will allow for development by Plains Exploration & Production Co. (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 Dec. 31, 2022," said Linda Krop, EDC chief counsel 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.

"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 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, that is, the Pt. Arguello Project, comprised of Platforms Hidalgo, Harvest and Hermosa, and the Gaviota processing site, by 2017.

The Environmental Defense Center protects the local environment through education, advocacy, and legal action and works primarily within Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo counties. 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 planning policies and objectives.

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