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New Group Forms to Stop Venoco Inc. from Renewing Oil Drilling Off the Coast of California.

OXNARD, Calif. -- In response to statements by Venoco, Inc. that the company is reviewing plans to renew oil production at its idled platform off the coast of Oxnard, Stop Offshore Oil Drilling, together with a growing group of environmental organizations and elected officials, has committed to fight these efforts and to protect and preserve California's beautiful coastline.

Thirty-six years ago, the communities of Oxnard, Ventura and Santa Barbara experienced one of the worst environmental disasters in California's history. Over a 10-day period, beginning January 28, 1969, a Unocal well on Platform Alpha ruptured, spilling over three million gallons of crude oil that spread across thirty-five miles of coastline, from Pismo and Santa Barbara to Ventura, Oxnard and beyond. The 1969 spill killed countless fish and mammals, devastated kelp forests, displaced many populations of endangered birds, and cost coastal communities millions of dollars in cleanup costs.

Brian Brennan, Mayor of Ventura, has not forgotten the 1969 spill. "I have spoken out for many years against offshore drilling," he said.

But, companies like Venoco are not listening to Mayor Brennan and others. Despite the clear danger of renewed drilling, Venoco is speaking publicly about its intentions to restart drilling off Platform Grace, located just twelve miles from the same communities devastated by Platform Alpha. With record high gas prices, "the economics have changed," said Venoco Spokesman Mike Edwards in The Los Angeles Times. "The oil and gas business is all about economics." (The Los Angeles Times, April 25, 2005.)

"It is unfortunate that a few companies are taking advantage of current oil prices to again endanger our coast," Mayor Brennan said. "It is unconscionable in this day and age where the science and technology of renewable energy has advanced in light years that these same companies continue to do business relative to the Stone Age."

Mitchell Schwartz, spokesman for Stop Offshore Oil Drilling, also strongly disagrees with Mr. Edwards. "We believe - along with most Californians - that drilling for oil off the beaches where our children play is about far more than economics. While Venoco may make millions from its Platform Grace operations, southern California could lose priceless coastal ecosystems and billions of dollars if another large spill occurs."

Southern California-based Heal the Bay also supports the effort to stop Venoco. "Nearly all Californians agree that our coastal waters are not for sale," said Executive Director Mark Gold. "We urge Venoco to listen to the will of the people and do what is right for California's coast."

Since the early 1970s, largely as a result of the Santa Barbara spill, there has been a Federal Moratorium on offshore drilling. But Platform Grace is exempt from the moratorium and it appears that Venoco may move forward to resume production with nominal public and regulatory review.

"We support efforts to halt renewed oil production at idled platforms off the coast of Ventura County, platforms that are not covered by the moratorium on new oil and gas leasing currently in effect," says David Newman of the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC). "In particular, NRDC strongly opposes any effort to restart development from Platform Grace off the coast of Ventura County, certainly in the absence of full compliance with all governing laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act and the Coastal Zone Management Act."

According to a recent report from Minerals Management Services, the federal agency that oversees Venoco's operations, just last year over one hundred gallons of oil spilled from Venoco's nearby Platform Gail. MMS also reports that in 2003 and 2004, Venoco was cited for numerous health, safety and environmental violations. "While relatively small compared to the Santa Barbara spill, Venoco's 2004 accident tells us that there is no way to safely drill for oil off of California's coast," Mr. Schwartz said. "It's just a matter of time before another catastrophic spill could occur. That's why we've asked Venoco and are asking all oil companies to publicly pledge that they will not renew drilling operations off the coast of California."

"California's leadership on environmental policies is completely at odds with the concept of offshore oil drilling," said Matt Petersen, President and CEO of Global Green USA. As a leader whose community is directly threatened by Venoco's apparent plans, Mayor Brennan agrees. "I challenge (oil companies) to pick up the gauntlet in relation to renewable ocean technologies and provide true energy leadership into the 21st century," he said.

Stop Offshore Oil Drilling is a broad and growing group of concerned citizens, political leaders, and environmental organizations banded together to defeat attempts to drill for oil off California's coast. Key supporters in the environmental community include Global Green USA, the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC), and Heal the Bay. For more information, please visit www.stopoffshoreoildrilling.com.
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Publication:Business Wire
Date:Jul 22, 2005
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