County Board Extends Tajiguas Landfill’s Life by 20 years

Tajiguas_Gaviota_landfill_by_Bill_Dewey_12_28_16.jpgIn a terrible and momentous decision, the Board of Supervisors re-approved the Tajiguas Resource Recovery Project (TRRP) on a 5-0 vote on November 14, 2017. They made this decision in the worst possible way by withholding critical documents until the last minute (in violation of County rules), relying on questionable if not inaccurate “facts,” and sweeping significant environmental issues under the rug.

 

The re-approval relied on a deeply flawed environmental analysis that ignored evidence of new significant impacts from both the coastal zone boundary error (that placed the anaerobic digester in the coastal zone) and the emergence of the federally threatened California red-legged frog on landfill areas that will experience increased vehicle traffic and night-lighting. Rather than address these issues head-on, the County chose to ignore them.

 

Staff disclosed, for the first time, that their coastal zone error will increase the project’s cost by 18%, or $20M, to a total $130M, plus interest.  Before the error, tipping fees were slated to increase by 26% over 3 years, followed by unknown future annual increases as a result of the TRRP’s “Put or Pay” contracts. Rates could go even higher as the County has a $10M deficit in the funds needed to close the landfill. 

 

While Project documents claim a net reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the deployment of the anaerobic digester (AD), new regulations will accomplish much of this reduction without the AD. More importantly, the TRRP imperils the creation of high-quality compost that can be used for carbon farming; an agricultural process that sequesters atmospheric carbon in the soil.  By eliminating the TRRP, improving source separation of the waste stream, making compost with food scraps, and building robust community participation in recycling we can achieve a carbon negative project. As recently reported in The Economist, forward-thinking communities and businesses must focus on creating net negative emissions. The TRRP’s problematic reduction in GHG emissions squanders the opportunity to achieve much better GHG results. 

 

The TRRP may have made some sense at some point, but not as it is configured, and not in current market conditions. In 2016 the Board of Supervisors signed contracts with Mustang, the investor-team, to have Mustang build and operate the TRRP. The County also entered into contracts with the four participating cities. The deal was signed and sealed, and ready to take the final step of issuing $120M in municipal bonds when the coastal zone blunder was discovered.  Now the County has revised the project to avoid placing the TRRP in the coastal zone, but numerous new significant coastal zone issues remain unanswered.  More importantly, China recently closed its market for contaminated recycled materials, which is the main output from the dirty materials recovery facility which produces a contaminated feedstock for the anaerobic digester. 

 

A group of five solid waste experts knowledgeable about current legal and regulatory requirements, recycling markets and the suite of available technical and programmatic options have concluded the TRRP is not the correct approach for the South Coast. The inflexible “Put or Pay" contract locks each participating city into this system for 20 years. This contract is extremely expensive and can already be replaced by simpler, more efficient and proven alternatives. The best way to maximize the reuse and recycling of our waste stream and avoid contaminating reusable materials is to separate at the source and compost. At the end of the day, we as a community need to produce less waste. This is the best way to reduce GHG emissions and lessen our impact on the planet and the Gaviota Coast. The TRRP’s “Put or Pay” contract conflicts with this basic premise. The next best way to lessen the impact of our solid waste is to sort it at the source to minimize the cost of processing and avoid contamination. Many communities have enhanced the effectiveness of their collection and sorting systems, and we should take a page from their book.

 

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Oppose TRRP Expansion

Don’t Trash the Gaviota Coast!

The single biggest threat to the Gaviota Coast today is the County’s trash processing plant proposed at the Tajiguas Landfill. 

The County approved the project last year but relied on an incorrect boundary line for the coastal zone, and now must revise and reconsider the project. The project’s purpose was to extend the landfill’s life by 12 years, but with the delays, the landfill’s life may be extended eight years or less. As time passes, the project’s benefits decrease while costs rise. 

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The Tajiguas Resource Recovery Project (TRRP) involves $120M of trash processing machines housed in two Costco-sized buildings on top of the Tajiguas Landfill. All solid waste from the South Coast (except Carpinteria), Solvang, Buellton and the Cuyama Valley will be trucked to the TRRP for processing. Residential trash rates will need to increase by at least 40% to pay for the TRRP; some estimate the rate increases will be much higher. 

To overcome the coastal zone problem, the County is proposing to expand trash processing beyond the Tajiguas Landfill and onto the adjacent Baron Ranch. Baron Ranch was to serve as a buffer for the Tajiguas Landfill, not as an expansion zone. While the County’s vague proposal leaves many unanswered questions, the expansion onto Baron Ranch represents a significant threat to the Gaviota Coast. 

TRRP is entirely incompatible with the National Seashore-worthy Gaviota Coast. The TRRP will substantially increase the amount of traffic on the Gaviota Coast, will squander the potential to reduce greenhouse gases through carbon farming (a practice referenced in the Paris Agreement that sequesters atmospheric carbon in the soil), and will extend operations at the Landfill for 20 more years. The County pledged to close the landfill by 2015 but now proposes to extend operations until 2036. 

In proposing the TRRP, the County rejected viable alternatives that would have less cost, fewer impacts, and move towards Zero Waste goals that many other local governments have adopted throughout the Country. We can do better. 

 

Five solid waste experts recommend NO onTRRP 

(click above for their letter)

 

  • Paul Relis, Former State of California Board Member, CalRecycle Lecturer in Waste Management, UC Santa Barbara Vice Chair, Bioenergy Association of California
  • Gary Petersen, Former State of California Board Member, CalRecycle Former Vice President Waste Management, Inc. Former Director of Environmental Affairs, Recycle America
  • William O’Toole, President, EcoNomics Inc. 
  • Nick Lapis, Director of Advocacy, Californians Against Waste 
  • Matt Cotton, Principal, Integrated Waste Management Consulting, LLC

 

Gaviota Coast Conservancy urges the Board to just say no to TRRP expansion 

(click above for our letter)


 

 Red_legged_frog.jpegEndangered red-legged frog, recently found at Tajiguas

 

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Coastal Victory in Bixby Enforcement

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(Bixby Ranch grading, Gaviota Coast aerial photos by Mike Lunsford)

On Thursday November 9, 2017, the Coastal Commission (CCC) voted unanimously to adopt a Cease and Desist Order finding extensive land use violations at the Bixby Ranch and a companion Restoration Order that mandated habitat restoration to compensate for the impacts of the violations, imposition of fines, and the donation of a 36 acre parcel to the County to expand the Jalama County Park.  The Orders were negotiated between Commission staff and the manager of Bixby Ranch.

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Speak Up for Gaviota


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View from Baron Ranch

Speak up for the Gaviota Coast!

Let's take this opportunity for another path for Tajiguas


 For the update on what's possible and what's at stake, please check our recent Op Ed in the Independent, in collaboration with Sigrid Wright of Community Environmental Council. Also, here's our GCC Letter to the Planning Commission, sharing what we see could be possible and why it's a good time to reconsider this astronomically-expensive project.


Here's the skinny: The Gaviota Coast is a nationally significant open space and natural area. The County Public Works Department (PWD) operates the 350-acre Tajiguas Landfill 26 miles west of Santa Barbara in what was once a coastal canyon on the Gaviota Coast, now filled with trash.
In 1999, the Board of Supervisors directed staff to close the Tajiguas Landfill by 2015, but instead, PWD proposed a trash processing facility to extend Tajiguas Landfill to 2036 or beyond. The trash processing facility will be constructed and operated by an investment group from San Luis Obispo, Mustang Investors, LLC. While the County originally required the facility to be privately financed, they later agreed to use municipal bond financing to borrow around $122 million to build the facility. This puts the County, and all ratepayers, on the hook if the facility fails. According to leading experts in the solid waste industry, the facility is poorly designed and may never operate as promised. Even if it does fail, approval of the project means that Tajiguas and the Gaviota Coast will continue to serve as a hub for all South Coast solid waste for 20 or more years.

Please Email, call or 

rsvp to attend the Goleta City Council hearing on September 5 at 6:00 PM (Butterfly Hearing) and 8:00 PM (Approx., for Rate Increase Hearing)

Write a supportive letter to the editor

and/or a supportive comment on the Independent Op Ed we submitted with Community Environmental Council sharing your concern for the future of the Gaviota Coast 


GCC has long opposed expansions of the landfill and opposed the Tajiguas Resource Recovery Project (TRRP). Despite this opposition, the County approved the TRRP in 2016 but used the wrong coastal zone boundary line. Landfills are not allowed in the coastal zone, so the County is trying to revise and re-approve the project. The County is now proposing to expand the Tajiguas Landfill and site the TRRP’s anaerobic digester on the adjacent Baron Ranch and make a series of other changes to the project. 

GCC has recently been working on developing an alternative approach to South Coast solid waste management that has substantially better environmental benefits at considerably less cost while embracing a progressive, long-term vision for the South Coast’s waste streams. This vision cannot proceed if the TRRP is approved. 

The County is desperate to re-approve the TRRP, but to do so, must get approval for steeply increased trash rates.  Those rate increases will be considered on September 5 by the Goleta City Council.    The Rate setting hearing will follow a hearing on the fate of the Ellwood Butterfly grove, which GCC is involved in supporting the Friends of the Ellwood Monarchs. 

Thank you for your support for the Gaviota Coast


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Scenic Highway Designation Ceremony

Gaviota Coast Conservancy played a major role 
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Caltrans has officially designed the Gaviota Coast as a State Scenic Highway. Over the past year, Gaviota Coast Conservancy worked tirelessly with Caltrans, County staff and the Santa Barbara Board of Supervisors to make this happen. As stated by the Director of Caltrans, "the scenic qualities of this well-deserved section of California's coast will be preserved, so that they may continue to be appreciated and enjoyed by all."
Gaviota Coast Conservancy, along with Supervisor Doreen Farr, have long pushed for this overdue designation. The new Scenic Highway will extend along a 21-mile stretch of Highway 101, from Goleta's western boundary to Highway 1 at Las Cruces, where it will connect with another scenic route on Highway 1 between Las Cruces and Lompoc. For more detail, here's an article on the Gaviota Coast Scenic Highway designation in the Lompoc Record. Check out Noozhawk and KEYT's coverage as well.
Your Gaviota Coast Conservancy board continues to work diligently to help preserve the Gaviota Coast. This is one more step in that pursuit. We are most proud and pleased to have taken a leading role in this project, and look forward to continuing our work in the coming year. Special thanks to board Vice President Steve Forsell for his dedicated efforts.
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SCAPE 2017

Visions of the Gaviota Coast

Gaviota Coast Conservancy Board, photo by Isaac Hernandez
The board of the Gaviota Coast Conservancy (photographed at the event, to the left) would like to thank everyone who participated for another successful fundraiser (especially our sponsors and partners). A fabulous time was had by all who attended. Please enjoy and share this photo album of the event!
The Fifth Annual SCAPE Art Benefit for Gaviota Coast Conservancy and Naples Coalition, Visions of the Gaviota Coast, was held at the stunning Bacara Resort and Spa (8301 Hollister Ave, Goleta, CA 93117) on Friday, 4/14/17, 2-8p, with a reception on Friday (5-8p), and silent auction (2-7p) and Saturday, 4/15/17, from 10a-4p, with a film screening of Shaw Leonard's Gaviota: The End of Southern California (at 3p).
The admission-free benefit art sale went from 4/14 at 2pm through 4/15 at 4p. The two-day art show featured a reception on Friday (5-8p) with live music, silent auction, appetizers and wine with a donation. The silent auction had products by GCC's 1% for the Planet sponsors, Patagonia and SeaVees, as well as local gift certificates, two tickets to see Jack Johnson at the County Bowl, a night with spa treatment at El Encanto, a night at Circle Bar-B Ranch, Zapotec weavings from Anomaly Imports, wines and fun packages... plus much more! Bacara Resort provided a one-night stay and spa treatment for the raffle. 
For more info on Southern California Artists Painting for the Environment, please visit www.S-C-A-P-E.org.
To donate directly to the Gaviota Coast Conservancy: https://gaviotacoastconservancy.org/donate 
or to donate to Naples Coalition: https://www.savenaples.org/donate
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President's Letter, Spring-Summer, 2017

It’s summer on the Gaviota Coast. The green hills that sprouted during our much-needed winter rains have turned to gold and brown. The seal pups grew up and have moved on. And the Gaviota Coast Conservancy has been busier than ever on a variety of issues.

Our most current concern out on the Coast is the evolving situation at the Tajiquas Landfill. Marc Chytilo and his legal colleagues have helped GCC identify critical defects in Santa Barbara County’s plan to anaerobically digest organic waste at the landfill and spread the contaminated residual organic “digestate” on local farm land. While approved, the project is in a state of limbo due to the County’s error in siting a portion of the project within the coastal zone where such industrial activities are not appropriate. It is

Mike_Brown-Santa_Cruz_Island-Jan_14-headshot.jpgour view that it is long past the time to close the landfill at Tajiguas, as such an industrial activity is inappropriate for the Gaviota Coast and it is certainly not good policy to develop additional industrial activities such as the anaerobic digestion process. We are committed to working with others to create a 21st-century approach to managing waste in the Santa Barbara region that is on the cutting edge of sustainability practice, and to work to restore Tajiguas to a positive role in the coastal ecosystem.

Many of you may have seen Shaw Leonard’s movie Gaviota: The End of Southern California when it was shown at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and more recently at the Sandbox. The movie is a terrific exploration of the natural history of the Gaviota Coast. If you haven’t seen it or you want to see it again, more showings are coming up. In most cases, we are showing the film in conjunction with the movie Losing Ground: Gaviota, a UCSB Blue Horizons student film featuring GCC Board member Guner Tautrim and his efforts to promote more sustainable agriculture practices on his family’s Gaviota Coast ranch and to encourage his neighbors’ efforts.

We're excited about our new membership program, and invite you to join (if you haven't already). Thanks for participating with us! Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates and invitations. 

We offer occasional guided hikes onto the Naples property and select other sites on the Gaviota Coast. Sign up to be on the Hikes Email List and we’ll let you know about the next opportunities to explore a part of the nearby Gaviota Coast up close.

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Mike Brown

President, Gaviota Coast Conservancy

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Generous SeaVees Donation benefits Gaviota Coast Conservancy

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Many thanks to Steven Tiller, Macy McGinness and the staff of SeaVees shoes of Santa Barbara for their significant and very generous annual 1% For The Planet donation to Gaviota Coast Conservancy. We are proud and honored to have them as a partner in the 1% For The Planet program. SeaVees has again shown their commitment to protecting the rural character and environmental integrity of the Gaviota Coast and the Central Coast region. We're deeply grateful to SeaVees for their continued support and look forward to a long and rewarding relationship, including hikes and fun like the gathering held recently with board members and SeaVees staff at Naples. You guys are the best!
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Tajiguas Resource Recovery Project "Dead in the Water"

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Due to County Processing Error


(Santa Barbara, CA, April 24, 2017) Leaders at the Gaviota Coast Conservancy (GCC) disclosed today that the County of Santa Barbara Solid Waste Division’s Tajiguas Resource Recovery Project (TRRP) has been halted indefinitely, due to a major land use processing error committed by the County.

“The TRRP is dead in the water. That’s a good thing for ratepayers, the environment and the Gaviota Coast,” declared Ed Easton, the Chairman of Gaviota Coast Conservancy’s Land Use Committee. “The Conservancy supports the closure of Tajiguas Landfill as soon as possible.”

In 1999, the Board of Supervisors directed County staff to close Tajiguas Landfill by 2015. Rather than adopting aggressive source reduction and better recycling programs and closing the landfill, County staff sought approval for a high-tech $120M trash processing plant on the Gaviota Coast. The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors approved the TRRP in July, 2016.

“At various times throughout this process, we asked whether specific elements of the Project were in the coastal zone and subject to permit, but the County just modified the project and we never got a complete answer. A trash processing plant is a bad idea anywhere on the Gaviota Coast. This is a biodiverse region of global significance, whose natural and cultural resources qualify it as suitable to be a National Seashore. It should not house a garbage dump at all, much less be the location for a massive new industrial trash processing facility,” explained GCC’s attorney, Marc Chytilo.

The Project proponents ignored the state-designated coastal zone boundary, relying instead on the County’s map, and discovered their error only after the EIR was complete, the project was approved, and the County was seeking $120M in public financing for the project.

“Gaviota Coast Conservancy has opposed trucking, processing, and dumping trash on the Gaviota Coast. It’s simply the wrong place for these industrial activities. We need to do better at reducing the amount of trash we generate, and to sort out valuable commodities, including organic waste. New State law requires communities to separate organic waste and prohibits dumping it in landfills. Organic food waste can easily be composted, using green waste to produce clean compost in large quantities that can help sequester carbon in soils and increase agricultural viability on the South Coast. The remaining trash residuals can be disposed in a new state-of-the-art landfill outside of Santa Maria, using the new electric trucks or highly efficient liquefied natural gas, like what is now being used in Ventura County. Tajiguas Landfill should be closed for good,” explained one of GCC’s founding Board members, Mike Lunsford.

The County asked the Coastal Commission to adjust the boundary, and was rejected when the Commission concluded that the County’s submittal “patently fails” to meet the legal requirements. The County has limited options, and as approved, the project is dead. 


Background on the Tajiguas Resource Recovery Project:

The Gaviota Coast is recognized as a recreational resource of statewide importance and has natural and cultural resources that make the Gaviota Coast suitable for National Seashore designation. It is a globally significant biodiversity hot spot, home to 1400 different species. Its visual features and landscapes are stunning, leading to Caltrans’ 2016 designation of Highway 101 through the Gaviota Coast as a California Scenic Highway. Only a small fraction of the Gaviota Coast’s lands are permanent protected, however, so action is needed to accomplish permanent protection as the forces of development and industrialization grow ever-stronger.

The TRRP is a $120M trash processing project that the County of Santa Barbara’s Solid Waste Division has proposed to site at the Tajiguas Landfill on the Gaviota Coast. Originally the project was to be privately financed by the Project operators, Mustang Investments, but Mustang later asked the County to finance the project. The total projected project cost, with financing, is GaviotaCoastConservancy.org Dedicated to protecting the rural character and environmental integrity of the Gaviota Coast for present and future generations $200M. The TRRP would consolidate trash processing activities to the Gaviota Coast.

Gaviota Coast Conservancy opposes the TRRP because it is a very expensive high tech solution that extends trash processing on the Gaviota Coast for decades when less expensive, simpler and more flexible alternatives exist. In 1999, the Board of Supervisors directed County staff to close the Tajiguas Landfill within 15 years, but staff instead sought to extend its life and perpetuate incompatible industrial activities on the Gaviota Coast.

The TRRP commits our community to increased trash rates (nearly 15% over next 2 years and 40% over next 10 years), and discourages the development of stand-alone, high quality composting facilities that are needed for local farms and to enable Carbon Farming, an important tool for sequestering carbon in the soil.

The TRRP would be unnecessary if:

  • the South Coast enhanced programs to more effectively “source-separate” waste;
  • compost were produced nearby (not in Santa Maria or Oxnard), to reduce the transport of organic wastes;
  • a more effective materials recovery facility were completed on the South Coast; and
  • the remaining residual is disposed at the new Las Flores Ranch Class III Landfill near Santa Maria using efficient, electric-powered or alternatively-fueled haul trucks.

The County staff was apparently unaware that the state coastal zone boundary differed from the boundary on County maps, and that the state boundary always controls. Significant parts of the TRRP are actually located inside the coastal zone. Prior approvals of the TRRP are now invalid. The County’s initial request to modify the coastal zone boundary was summarily rejected. The County now faces a daunting process to try to gain approval of the TRRP.

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Action Summary on Tajiguas stating that Tajiguas should be closed within 15 years, from this date:

August 3, 1999

 

COUNTY ADMINISTRATION BUILDING

BOARD HEARING ROOM

105 EAST ANAPAMU STREET, FOURTH FLOOR

SANTA BARBARA

 

A C T I O N  S U M M A R Y

(UNOFFICIAL)

ADMINISTRATIVE

 

8) HEARING - Consider recommendations regarding Refuse Disposal Strategies for the South Coast, as follows: (99-21,298) (FROM JULY 13, 1999) (EST. TIME: 1 HR.)

a) Consider the long-term, intermediate and short-term refuse disposal strategies identified in the report;

b) Consider a 15-year Tajiguas Landfill expansion for purposes of environmental review;

c) Direct staff to develop another County Landfill site as a long-term disposal solution;

d) Remove CAC alternative (Compost, MRF, and transfer station) from CEQA project level consideration and terminate RFQ process for CAC proposal;

e) Direct staff to initiate independent process for development of a Material Recovery Facility (MRF)/Transfer Station as well as a Compost Facility;

f) Direct staff to proceed with all short-term options including a benchfill project and a minor fill project in the Coastal Zone at the Tajiguas Landfill site.

 

COUNTY ADMINISTRATOR’S RECOMMENDATION: APPROVE

Marshall/Rose:

a) Conducted public hearing and considered the long-term, intermediate and short-term refuse disposal strategies.

b) Approved. Directed staff to modify the project description to reflect the goal that the Tajiguas Landfill be closed within 15 years or sooner.

c) Directed.

d) Approved.

e) Directed.

f) Directed.

Gray: No.




Letter from California Coastal Commission to SB County regarding the Coastal Zone boundary for Tajiguas:

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Letter from SB County acknowledging the error:
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February 2017 Memo from SB County:

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Tajiguas Landfill Site Plan

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Tajiguas Landfill Site Plan with TRRP and Anaerobic Digester

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GCC on Venoco Bankruptcy

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Gaviota Coast Conservancy statement on Venoco bankruptcy announcement

Venoco's declaration of filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and returning of three offshore state leases back to the State of California is great news for the Gaviota Coast! Since their leases include Platform Holly and wells drilled at the beach at Ellwood, this is also a welcome development to neighbors in the City of Goleta.

“This action by Venoco signals the end of oil production and processing from State waters on the Gaviota Coast,” stated Michael S. Brown, President of the Gaviota Coast Conservancy. The rupture of the All-American Pipeline at Refugio in May 2015 and its continued non-operation led to a shutdown of Venoco’s Platform Holly offshore of the Gaviota Coast and of Exxon’s Las Flores Canyon processing operations in the heart of the Gaviota Coast.

“After a century of oil operations on this precious part of the California coast, today’s actions will lead to removal of three dangerous and visually intrusive oil and gas production facilities, restoration of degraded habitats, expanded public access, protection of Chumash cultural resources, and expanded sustainable agricultural activities that have defined the rural character of Gaviota for over 150 years,” said Brown. “We applaud the decades-long work of the Environmental Defense Center, the Sierra Club, Get Oil Out and Citizens Planning Association to fight the expansion of oil production on the Gaviota Coast and offshore in the Santa Barbara Channel. Their steadfastness, and Venoco’s quitclaim, turns a new page in history of this part of California.”

The Gaviota Coast Conservancy has advocated for the elimination of industrial activities on the Gaviota Coast, including oil and gas development and processing, as well as solid waste management. The shutdown, removal, and remediation of Venoco’s onshore facilities opens new opportunities for public use of a portion of the Coast that has been off limits for more than half a century.

“Venoco’s Ellwood processing facility has posed an unacceptable risk to Goleta residents and visitors alike for decades,” commented Phil McKenna, former President of the Conservancy. “Now we have the prospect of creating a new gateway to the Gaviota Coast that could be an educational, recreational, and cultural resource for all.”

“While the termination of Venoco’s operations in state waters is an important and positive development, the federal Department of Interior has signaled it may seek to reopen the Santa Barbara Channel and other areas to new federal leasing for oil drilling. The Conservancy and our environmental colleagues will maintain our vigilance over the Gaviota Coast and forcefully oppose any such proposals,” explained Mr. Brown.

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