The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday decided to deny an Excelaron LLC phased development project to place about a dozen oil wells and related facilities east of Arroyo Grande.

The meeting lasted most of the afternoon and included about 30 speakers during public comment. Excelaron appealed the planning commission’s decision to reject the project and give them time to address the public concerns several months ago.

Throughout discussions, residents cited fire and traffic dangers and opposed the project, while others saw the development as an opportunity for jobs and county taxes.

Supervisors, however, agreed the project was not right for the area citing fire suppression abilities, odors, oil spills, neighborhood and community changes and other issues.

District Four Supervisor Paul Teixeira said the decision to deny the project was a tough one, though sound.

“One wrong move with oil, chemicals and tools and the whole place goes up in flames,’’ Teixeira said. “We have a nice place where people live, with oil attempting to move in.’’

Third District Supervisor Adam Hill said “compatibility” issues made him decide to “move on” and deny the appeal, while 1st District Supervisor Frank Mecham and 2nd District Supervisor Bruce Gibson cited the serious “risks” the project posed.

Carol Florence, a principal planner with Oasis Associates, representing Excelaron, asked the board for a continuance. Florence told the board that the company, a subsidiary of Australian Oil Co., needed more time to survey property lines, have more public comment, answer board concerns, and mitigate impacts and safety concerns. 

Florence stressed the economic potential for the area and county rather than the “misunderstandings” about the project.

“We need new success stories and Excelaron is trying to be one,’’ Florence said.

Florence has said the project would add about 100 jobs - mostly union - and about $300,000 annually to the county’s general fund.

In March, the county’s planning commission denied a conditional use permit for the proposed project, located on Howard Mankins’ ranch southwest of Huasna Townsite. The commission cited noise, neighborhood incompatibly, odors, damage to sensitive species, oaks, flooding and issues including the threat of wild fires and tanker wrecks.

The majority of the people at the commission meeting opposed the project based on beliefs that it would disturb the quiet valley lifestyle where trees and a cluster of small neighborhoods prevail. Mineral rights remained an open-ended question.

The Excelaron project involves crude being trucked along Porter Ranch Road to Highway 166.

The company had plans to staff the site seven days a week, 24 hours a day and improve the few roadways in the area. Improvements - such as widening - would be made to Highway 166 at Alamos Road. Huasna River Bridge would be strengthened and gravel would be spread on large sections of Porter Ranch Road, the company also stated. The crude would likely be hauled to the Santa Maria Valley or further south for processing, according to a staff report.

But taking the oil out of the area can also pose problems, according to a staff report. Porter Ranch Road floods when it rains.

Huasna Valley resident Rosella Ortega said nothing can be changed to stop the fire danger posed by the project.

“If one starts, how will we stop it?’’ Ortega asked. “There is no way I know of. The project is not right for this area. I hope they go somewhere else. It really would change my community a great deal.’’

Area resident Bradley Wilson said he feared environmental damages to “water” and other pollution concerns.

“Accidents happen ... then what?’’ Wilson asked. “I know the area could use some jobs and the county could use some more funds. I would have liked to hear more about what the company was going to do about the impacts.’’

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(3) comments

WyettEarp
WyettEarp

Well I am sure am glad we stopped those nasty, greedy, evil oils d-bags dead in their tracks on that one!!

Can you believe they actually want to drill for oil where the oil actually is? Go drill some where else! Just because there is oil there doesn't mean you should drill there.

Never mind the desperate need for tax revenues in the county, state and country. Never mind the desperate need for jobs for people to feed their families! And heaven forbid we approve any project that would help us get off foreign oil dependency!

We like sending billions of dollars to our enemies so they can use the money to kill us where and when ever then can! We also like $4 a gallon gas.

So stick it in your ear you capitalist pigs!!

keyslammer
keyslammer

For those with all the facts...they will understand that this was an excellent decision. The cost to the county to "support" this project, as well as the liability was enormous. It costs well over $125/linear foot to pave a road...the road and bank upgrades necessary to support this would have fallen on tax payer shoulders...and the "tar" anticipated to be pulled out was not suitable for fuel, and would have been used for other petroleum items already served by the downstream effluent of current processing. As a tax payer, the liability and infrastructure costs would have been insanely expensive. Oh...and the "company" that wanted to pursue this project is a penny stock foreign corporation. Forget the environmental impact issues and the "drill here, drill now" mantra...this was a GOOD financial decision by the Board.

CCEngineer
CCEngineer

Why does it cost $125/ linear ft to widen and re-pave existing roads? Aren't you intellectually curious enough to ask that question? We the taxpayers should be appalled that it costs that much. The answer is three-fold: prevailing wage laws, cost of materials, and the overreach of county staff in their interpretation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Government construction contracts are set up in such a way as to give unfair advantage to "union shops", which of course write big, fat checks to their keepers in the Democratic party to make sure the gravy keeps flowing. Even if you aren't a union member, you still have to pay dues because you allegedly benefit from collective bargaining. Your dues, regardless of your political leanings, may go to candidates for whom you wouldn't vote. That "tar" as you call it would in some measure alleviate the cost of materials need to build roads and manufacture other petroleum based products. That includes components in those solar panels that everyone touts as an energy panacea.

As for the county staff being able to enforce CEQA, they have a memo of understanding with the State. Fine, as long as you have people in the county offices who have the technical knowledge to know what it is they are interpreting and enforcing! As someone who has logged a lot of hours meeting with and answering the questions of said staff, I can assure you this is not the case.

What is most alarming is that the Board of Supervisors have now set a dangerous precedent. They have made themselves the arbiters of "good economics". Now all they have to do to kill a project is say its not "good business". Adam Smith wrote of the invisible hand of the free market, not a highly-visible body of hypocrites, as the device by which we determine what makes good business sense. If the project flopped, so be it. They still would have provided employment to individuals and businesses alike, even if for a short time. At which point they would have learned from their mistakes or closed up shop. Even in abandonment and remediation activities, there would have been ample opportunity for employment. There is clearly no such thing as an administrative solution to a practical problem.

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