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Santa Barbara torn on oil drilling proposal

May 28, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
A company is proposing a new oil drilling venture in the Santa Barbara Channel, and the issue is heading to the ballot box, giving the choice to the people of Carpinteria.Signs sprouting in the neighborhood urge a 'no' vote on the drilling Measure J.

The vote will come just seven weeks after the deadly explosion in the gulf that continues to gush oil into the ocean. This oil drilling will be on land, and the oil reservoir will be under the ocean.

"The project that's proposed now is the much safer way. The well head will actually be on land, and there will be nothing subjected to the open ocean. So I'm still a proponent, yes," said Carpinteria resident Chris Gahan.

If voters approve Measure J, eventually a 17-story exploratory rig would go up on the oil company, Venoco Inc.'s land in Carpinteria. The rig would drill down, and then the pipes would slant out under the ocean.

Near the rig is a seal rookery that is usually home to more than 300 seals. More than 27,000 people a year visit the harbor seals.

Opponents feel that the drilling would drive the seals away and create a potential danger to residents.

"There is no oil drilling that is safe. There are some things safer than others, but we don't need it here," said Carpinteria resident Lindy Carlson.

There are a number of homes close to the drilling rig location and the current Venoco property.

Venoco saw that it wouldn't get council approval. So, it gathered signatures to put the measure on the ballot.

"Venoco came in, bought this old oil and gas plant in 1999, and now they're spending money to buy the rest of the community and get what they want done there," said Carpinteria resident Donna Jordan.

"Venoco chose to ask each voter what they thought about Measure J because we believe it's such an important issue," said Lisa Rivas, a Venoco spokesperson.

Even if voters approve it on June 8, there are still hurdles. It has to be approved by the state Lands Commission and Coastal Commission.

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