For the four years ending Dec. 31, 2018, Santa Barbara County saw an average 39 violations per year by petroleum producers, none of which rose to the level of a high-risk operation.
The data is part of a report on oil and gas operations in the county, and how various agencies responded, to be presented when the Board of Supervisors meets today in Santa Maria.
During that same period, the petroleum unit of the county Energy, Minerals & Compliance Division issued a total of 156 violation notices, most over minor issues and remedied by the respective operator in a timely manner.
The operator with the most violations — 134 — was the county’s biggest producer, HVI Cat Canyon Inc., formerly Greka Oil & Gas Inc., while the year with most violations — 65 — was 2017, and most of them were issued against the same operator.
According to the report, the violations documented “a variety of annual inspection infractions,” including fluid leaks and other spills, failure to comply with multiple requirements of the county’s Petroleum Ordinance and failure to pay properly assessed fees and fines during 2015, 2016 and 2017.
HVI Cat Canyon, which has a negotiated agreement that would have seen its outstanding fees and fines brought current by December 2018, is behind on two installments totaling $144,838.08, according to the report.
In 2017 and 2018, the county collected $108,000 and $45,604, respectively, in fines from HVI Cat Canyon, all of it related to 33 notices issued June 2016-November 2017.
Greka’s successor also was the subject of numerous Air Pollution Control District violations during the reporting period.
Of the 250 notices issued, half were directed to HVI Cat Canyon. “These violations included both emissions violations and administrative violations.
“Some examples of the violations issued include failing to operate equipment in compliance with APCD permits, local rules, state regulations, or federal regulations; failing to maintain equipment; failing to monitor operations; failing to keep records, failing to submit reports. and operating equipment without valid APCD permits.”
A single violation notice over emissions was outstanding. It was issued for operating equipment without a valid APCD permit.
The county and company are working to resolve the matter.
Seven of eight offshore oil platforms and the onshore facilities that service them were shuttered in the wake of the May 2015 rupture of a Plains All American Pipeline system at Refugio State Beach. The affected system was purged and cleaned of oil, and rendered inert with nitrogen.
As the News-Press reported earlier, a Plains development plan for a new, smaller steel pipeline is pending county review.
Three “substantial” oil and gas development projects are being processed, all located in Cat Canyon and adjacent to each other:
• Aera Energy proposes to develop an oil and gas production and processing facility on 305 acres of a 2,112-acre holding in east Cat Canyon. It consists of 296 wells. No hydraulic fracturing is proposed. A Planning Commission hearing is anticipated in the summer.
• ERG proposes to develop 75 acres of its 8,054-acre west Cat Canyon holding, which currently contains about 1,600 active and idle wells. It consists of 233 new thermally enhanced wells. No hydraulic fracturing is proposed. A draft environmental study was released for a 60-day public period on June 4, 2018. A Planning Commission hearing is scheduled for March 13.
• PetroRock LLC proposes to develop an oil and gas production and processing facility on 28 acres of a 710-acre holding in west Cat Canyon. It consists of 231 oil production, injection and water wells on 29 well pads. No hydraulic fracturing is proposed.
The meeting starts at 9 a.m. at the Joseph Centeno Betteravia Government Administration Building, 511 E. Lakeside Parkway in Santa Maria. It will be streamed at www.countyofsb.org.