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Carpinteria voters say no to new oil-drilling project

June 9, 2010 |  1:43 pm

Voters in Carpinteria have decisively defeated an oil company’s initiative aimed at slant drilling from the shore into the Santa Barbara Channel.

About 70% of voters in the Santa Barbara County city, which claims to have “the world’s safest beach,” said no to Measure J.

The measure would have paved the way for Denver-based Venoco Inc. to build a multistory drilling rig at its oil facility on a bluff overlooking the Pacific. The company had said it would encase the rig in a lighthouse-like structure and that the project would bring the city millions of dollars in royalties and fees. It also pledged to donate up to $5 million to Carpinteria schools.

But Tuesday’s vote came at the worst possible time, as massive slicks continued to foul the Gulf of Mexico seven weeks after the worst drilling disaster in U.S. history.

City officials had opposed the initiative, saying it amounted to an end run around local regulation. "We felt that Venoco’s misuse of the initiative process and their attempted hostile takeover of our small city was completely inappropriate," said Donna Jordan, a former Carpinteria mayor, in a statement issued by the initiative’s opponents.

Venoco pointed out it would still face intensive scrutiny from the California Coastal Commission and other agencies. The project "would have benefited the community for years to come," said Lisa M. Rivas, a company spokeswoman.

She said Venoco still owns the offshore lease and will consider ways to tap it from existing platforms. However, she said, those possible projects would not, under state law, provide Carpinteria the revenue it would have had with the onshore proposal.

-- Steve Chawkins in Ventura