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Chevron gets 30-year lease for offshore oil terminal

December 10, 2010 |  4:21 pm

State officials Friday granted a 30-year lease to Chevron Corp. to continue operating its oil tanker terminal off the El Segundo coastline despite vigorous opposition from environmental groups concerned about the risk of an oil spill.

The 2-1 vote by the California State Lands Commission will result in the oil company paying a base rent of $1.3 million a year to lease 221 acres of state-controlled tidelands for the terminal through 2040.

For nearly a century, oil tankers have docked about 1 1/2 miles off the shore of El Segundo to pump crude through underwater pipelines to the onshore refinery, one of the largest on the West Coast.

Environmental groups wanted the state to cut the lease back to no more than 10 years and require Chevron to reroute some of the tanker traffic to the Port of Los Angeles to lower the risk of a significant spill in Santa Monica Bay.

Local firefighters also raised concerns about their ability to respond to disaster at the terminal.

El Segundo Fire Capt. Chris Thomason, president of the El Segundo Firefighters Assn., told the commission the fire control plan for the marine terminal is "woefully inadequate," and said the department has no boat to get there in case of a fire or explosion.

Chevron officials said they maintain their own disaster response crews and that the proposal included exhaustive safeguards against fires, oil spills and threats to the environment.

A long-term lease, they argued, is key to the business model of the refinery, a major supplier of fuel to the region that processes about 275,000 barrels of crude a day into gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.

In recent decades, there have have been periodic spills that have usually involved just a few gallons of oil, but in 1980, an oil tanker's hull fractured, spilling 105,000 gallons near the offshore facility.

In 1991, a tanker trying to berth at the terminal ripped open an underwater pipeline, spilling about 21,000 gallons of a diesel-like oil mixture that washed up on Malibu beaches. Chevron paid a $500,000 fine for that incident.

Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado and a representative for state Director of Finance Ana J. Matosantos voted for the lease. A representative for state Controller John Chiang voted no.

-- Tony Barboza