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Posts Tagged ‘offshore oil drilling’



Environmentalists: Why T-Ridge is a Bad Deal

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

oilrigsunsetToday Calbuzz posts a piece by three leading California environmentalists making their case against the Tranquillon Ridge offshore oil drilling project. The project, about which you can find some of our reporting and analysis here, here and here, has emerged as one of the most contentious environmental issues in the state, and is expected to remain the center of controversy next year. Environmental leaders Penny Elia, an Orange County coastal advocate; Fran Gibson, board president of Coastwalk California; and Mark Massara, director of the Sierra Club’s coastal programs, respond to Tuesday’s piece by attorney Linda Krop, who negotiated the proposed agreement with the Houston-based PXP oil company.

By Penny Elia, Fran Gibson and Mark Massara
Special to Calbuzz

The proposal by PXP for the first new off shore oil drilling in State waters in over 40 years has been touted as “an end to drilling off Santa Barbara”. Unfortunately, the hype is misleading and disingenuous at best.

The proposal will not end drilling because the so-called deal is not only not enforceable, it will set a precedent for new federal off shore oil drilling off Mendocino, and from Santa Barbara through the Southern California coast to La Jolla.  One reason this sounds so tempting is that the Environmental Defense Center, which signed a secret agreement with PXP, makes claims that are untrue.  The funds promised to the state over the next 14 years are not worth the risks. Here are the facts:

This project would set a precedent for new federal drilling

Allowing new drilling in state waters makes a statement it is okay to drill in federal waters because California considers financial contributions to its general fund a benefit that outweighs the risk to its coastline.  Lawmakers have said that approval of  new drilling in state waters will make it difficult to prevent new drilling in federal waters.

Allowing new drilling does not end drilling

It is perverse logic to say that allowing new drilling in T-Ridge will end drilling at T-Ridge early.  If this proposal is denied, NO drilling into T-Ridge will occur.  Other oil companies, with existing operations in state waters, are seeking to make PXP-like deals so they can expand their drilling.

Promised end dates on the project are  not enforceable

The State Attorney General and the State Lands Commission attorneys concluded the terms of the agreement that relate to the cessation of oil production were offshoreunenforceable.  The ability to enforce the end dates is hampered by such things as the ability of the federal government to exercise eminent domain, interference with the federal government’s right to use pipelines in interstate commerce and interference by the state with the contract between PXP and Minerals Management Service (MMS).  The state and Santa Barbara County could also opt out.

MMS has final say over the end date

Federal law requires MMS to extract all available oil.  MMS may agree to a termination of the PXP lease if PXP agrees to pay the federal government for any oil not extracted.  Such a requirement serves as an incentive for PXP to break its commitment.  Equally important, the ability to buy out of its lease does not prevent MMS from reselling the lease to another oil company.

EDC-PXP agreement is confidential and is NOT a settlement of a lawsuit

The confidetemp_logontial agreement between PXP and EDC is between private parties. If PXP decided to continue to drill it might, at best, result in the payment of damages to EDC but would be very unlikely to result in a requirement for PXP to cease operations, particularly if the State agreed it could continue.

There is no  requirement to remove the platforms

PXP/EDC claim this will result in shutting down operations from four platforms.  Even if the end dates were enforceable, PXP does not own three of the four platforms and there is no evidence their partners will cease operations (and pay the government penalties) as claimed.

The land deal is questionable

PXP’s submission to the lands commission says some of the land may have “insurmountable title issues”.  Because the agreement is confidential there is no ability to review the terms and conditions that run with the land or any  benefits of this. Who will hold title, how and when will the lands be conveyed,  what restrictions will be placed on the use of or future sale of the land how and by whom might it beoilspillsign managed?

More than 100 environmental groups oppose this project

In spite of what the oil industry would have you believe, offshore oil drilling is not safe.  A major spill could destroy our ocean, beaches, and coastal economy.  Spills happen on a regular basis. One-quarter of all oil spills in the past 44 years have occurred in the last decade.  Most recently, a spill in Australian waters  lasted 72 days, in spite of using the latest technology.  This spill had devastating impacts on marine life.

EDC claims that the overall risk for the PXP project is low because it will end drilling in 14 years.  This ignores that the greater the amount of oil being removed, the greater the likelihood of a spill with the chances of a spill  greatest in the early years.  These claims are contrary to every position EDC has taken in the past.  Innovation is good but it must be designed to work.

Fran Gibson

Fran Gibson

Mark Massara

Mark Massara

Why Some Enviros Back T-Ridge Oil Project

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

krop_lgToday and tomorrow, Calbuzz is posting pro and con arguments written by leading California environmentalists about the Tranquillon Ridge offshore oil drilling project. The project, about which you can find some of our reporting and analysis here, here and here, has emerged, along with AB32, as one of the two most contentious environmental issues in the state.  Expected to remain the focus of political controversy next year. the proposal has generated conflicts among some longtime allies in the environmental movement. Today’s piece is by Linda Krop, chief counsel for the Environmental Defense Center in Santa Barbara, who negotiated the proposed agreement with the Houston-based PXP oil company.

By Linda Krop
Special to Calbuzz

For over 30 years, the Environmental Defense Center has been among the state’s leading advocates in the battle to end oil drilling along our magnificent coast.  That’s why we’re so excited about the landmark agreement we negotiated on behalf of environmental groups in Santa Barbara County to phase out offshore oil production.

Like so many other issues misrepresented in today’s highly charged political climate, the Tranquillon Ridge proposal has been co-opted by some who seek to use it for their own political gain. That’s too bad because this agreement will finally bring an end to California offshore oil drilling.

Despite our efforts and successes along the way, there are still too many platforms drilling for oil off our coast. Pressure for more leasing abounds. In the 21st Century, we need to find new and innovative ways to solve old problems. With the Tranquillon Ridge agreement, we have found the way to do just that. That’s why this agreement is supported by a broad spectrum of groups — for whom coming together is a rare occurrence.

We recognize that there are nay-sayers and those who are nervous about any approach that falls short of removing all offshore oil drilling NOW.   But the reality is that no matter how much we want to pull these rigs from the ocean, we don’t have the legal authority or the support of any administration — Democrat or Republican — to achieve that goal.

So, we’ve found a way to get something through a negotiated agreement that we could not achieve in any other forum: an agreed termination date for four of the major oil rigs drilling off our shores. Currently these platforms operate without any end date, and can continue drilling for several more decades.

oil_platform

Under the agreement, three of the platforms would be shut down in nine years. The fourth platform would follow five years later. All related onshore processing facilities would be removed. In addition, hundreds of acres of onshore oil wells would be shut down.   And as a further bonus, the agreement requires PXP to reduce and offset all of its greenhouse gas emissions and provide approximately 4,000 acres of land to the public for permanent conservation. No new construction or facilities would be permitted.

This agreement is a total win-win for the environment. It will not only put an end to existing drilling operations, but will also provide the greatest protection against new federal leasing in California. The four platforms that will be shut down pose the biggest threat for new leasing along our coast because they can be used to access known reserves and are supported by existing infrastructure, making new drilling both attractive and economically profitable. Shutting down these platforms and removing the onshore facilities assures that they are not available for future oil leasing and development.

The signal this agreement will send is that California is serious about getting rid of offshore oil and willing to go the extra mile to make it happen. That’s why this agreement is endorsed by 20 major environmental groups in Santa Barbara County as well as our pro-environment County Supervisors, City Council members and Congresswoman Lois Capps.

The claim that such an agreement is not enforceable is misguided and wrong. While the Feds (through the Minerals Management Service, known as MMS) can fine a company for failing to continue production when there is still “profitable” oil in the ground (and thus royalties available to the government), a contract to end drilling (guaranteed under this agreement) is an enforceable contract.

It is not often that we have an opportunity to be creative and progressive in dealing with such a pressing issue facing the people of California. Rhetoric that suggests that we who support this agreement are somehow in favor of oil development is cynical and untrue, and does nothing to address the real issue of continued drilling off our shores.

goo_logo_3This agreement is an example of what we can do when people work together in an innovative way. While we on the environmental protection side have been able to win most of our battles, this approach gives us a way to end the war.

This is not an either-or situation to be pursued at the exclusion of additional approaches. An oil extraction tax, for example, is one way to help solve California’s budget woes, but it will do nothing to end offshore oil production. We need to have a variety of approaches to addressing our economic needs while protecting our environment. The proposal for an oil extraction tax can, and should, go hand in hand with a plan to stop oil drilling offshore.

We look forward to the opportunity to explain the benefits of this unique proposal, and address any concerns, should this matter be reconsidered by the State Lands Commission.

Linda Krop is Chief  Counsel of the Environmental Defense Center, a public interest law firm.  The EDC has led the fight against off-shore oil drilling for over 30 years. For more information about the Tranquillon Ridge plan,  you may visit the EDC website at www.EDCnet.org.