Thumbs down again for PXP Santa Barbara Oil Plan
6/2/2009 --The State Lands Commission on Monday lashed out at an attempt by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to allow the first new oil drilling in California waters since 1969.
Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, chairman of the three-member panel, called the governor's effort "a naked power grab." At a contentious hearing in Santa Monica, the commission passed a resolution urging legislators not to go along with the plan, which would revive a drilling proposal off the Santa Barbara County coast that the commission killed in January.
At issue is a complex arrangement crafted by Plains Exploration & Production, a Texas oil company, and a coalition of Santa Barbara environmental groups. Under the plan, the oil company would drill into the state's seafloor from a platform it owns in federal waters, just beyond the three-mile limit. In return, the company would agree to shut down that platform and three others by 2022 and to donate 4,000 acres of land for public use....
Even the environmentalists behind the Tranquillon Ridge compromise criticized the governor's eagerness to get it done. Linda Krop, an attorney for the Environmental Defense Center, told the panel her group has "grave concerns" about the precedent that would be set in bypassing the commission.
In January, the commission concluded that it would be impossible to enforce the part of the deal that would require the oil company to end its drilling. Some environmentalists and legislators also feared it would encourage U.S. officials to allow further drilling in federal waters off California.
But the plan can be modified, Krop said, and it should be the Lands Commission that reconsiders it....
"Even the land donation was in question. Company lawyers told Lands Commission staff that some of the parcels had title problems that made their transfer uncertain."