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Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on March 14th, 2017, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 18, Issue 2 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 18, Issue 2

Santa Barbara County approves private franchise for Cat Canyon oil operation

By BRENNA SWANSTON

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously on March 14 to grant a 20-year private franchise to ERG Resources to operate on the company’s pipeline system near the Cat Canyon Oil Fields. The board also voted to have the county’s Energy Division bring back a report in six months reviewing all onsite oil projects.

The decision came after heated discussion regarding the company’s history of operation violations, which Peter Cantle, deputy director for the county Energy and Minerals Division, compiled in a list ranging from 2011 to present.

The list, which cited dozens of violations, was provided in an email to 2nd District Supervisor Janet Wolf. At the March 14 meeting, Wolf said the company’s history of violations doesn’t reflect county staff’s assertion that ERG has a good operational record.

“Maybe there have been some improvements, but the operational record that I have just assembled in the last couple of days does not reflect that,” Wolf said.

Supervisors Peter Adam and Steve Lavagnino, who represent the 4th and 5th districts—where the ERG operations would take place—respectively, said Wolf’s assessment was unfair.

Lavagnino read out loud a portion of Cantle’s email saying the company was a “cooperative, attentive, and responsive” operator.

“If I was an operator in Santa Barbara County and I received this email, I would frame this and put it up on my wall,” Lavagnino said.

Adam pointed out the portion of the email clarifying that while ERG garnered many violations early on in its operations, the company hasn’t had one since October 2015.

Ben Oakley, environmental health and safety manager for ERG, also addressed the company violations.

“We were a younger company at the time,” Oakley said. “As our programs, facilities, and human resources have matured over the years, we’ve gotten a lot better at what we do. We certainly take a violation as an opportunity to learn.”

The board voted 5-0 to approve ERG’s private franchise and 3-2 to bring back a report in six months on onshore oil operations, with Adam and Lavagnino dissenting in the latter vote.