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SB County Supervisors to discuss offshore oil drilling

/ Source: Santa Maria Times

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors has another relatively quick and easy meeting scheduled Tuesday.

After coming off a four-week break and being apprised of a $16 million budget shortfall, the board has dealt with minor issues such as planning permit appeals and grand jury reports.

Tuesday is no different, except that the board will vote on whether to write another letter opposing oil drilling off the California coast in federal waters.

An offshore energy plan for 2010-2015 is in the works at the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the county is hoping to take advantage of the extended deadline for public comments.

"The current proposal of mass leasing offshore Santa Barbara County far exceeds this region's capacity to accommodate it without commensurate development offshore and onshore Santa Barbara County, no new leases should be offered in the 2010-2015 period," the draft letter states.

The five-year draft plan from the Minerals Management Service (MMS), a division of the Department of the Interior, includes oil and gas drilling and alternative energy projects that would be located on the outer continental shelf - federal lands under water beginning three miles off the coastline and extending for at least 200 nautical miles.

It consists of a schedule of oil and gas lease sales indicating the size, timing and location of proposed leasing activity determined to best meet the national energy needs for the five year period following its approval, according to MMS.

Included in the plan is a proposal to open 130 million acres off California's coastline to drilling for oil and natural gas, according to a resolution passed by the supervisors in April.

It specifically mentions opening up the Santa Maria Basin offshore Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties to new oil drilling leases, because of its high potential for hydrocarbon resources.

Last year, President George W. Bush lifted the ban on new federal offshore oil and gas leasing and Congress let its ban expire.

Members of the public have until Sept. 21 to submit their own comments on the draft plan, or county residents can opine before the Board of Supervisors Tuesday in Santa Barbara or Santa Maria.

The board meets at 9 a.m. in the hearing room on the fourth floor of the county Administration Building at 105 E. Anapamu St. in Santa Barbara.

The public can also address the board by using the remote audio and video equipment at the Betteravia Government Center, 511 E. Lakeside Parkway in Santa Maria.

To comment on the MMS 5-year energy lease plan, visit www.mms.gov, or call Renee Orr at (703)787-1215 for more information.

In a related matter, the county staff has recommended that the Board of Supervisors support proposed safety regulations from the MMS.

MMS could require all offshore platform operators to establish a Safety and Environmental Management System to cut down on oil spills caused by human error.

August 30, 2009