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Offshore drilling near Vandenberg could pose safety risk 

The proposed offshore expansion of an oil drilling operation near Vandenberg Air Force Base could pose a serious risk to the environment, according to a draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) recently released by Santa Barbara County.

Houston-based Plains, Exploration, and Production Company (PXP) is seeking state and county approval to expand the Point Pedernales Project, which began in 1987, out into the Pacific Ocean.

The county presented the draft EIR on Nov. 15 at Lompoc City Hall. One of the biggest concerns is a potential spill, said Santa Barbara County Energy Division Deputy Director Doug Anthony.

"You could have a pipeline rupture where the gas leaks out," Anthony said. "We are measuring a reasonable worse case for how far that vapor cloud would spread."

In addition to roadblocks of environmental and safety concerns, PXP may have to compete with Sunset Exploration Inc., which is expected to apply for a similar project. Ultimately, only one of the projects will be allowed, county Energy Specialist Kevin Drude said.

Ultimately, state agencies will decide which project goes ahead based on which will bethe safest and most productive and generate the most taxable revenue, Drude said.
The EIR will be revised after the public comment period, which ends Jan. 3.

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