The owners of the oil field between Pismo Beach and Edna Valley want to add 350 new oil wells and ramp up full-capacity production by almost double—from 5,000 to 9,000 barrels per day. Though the proposed expansion in Price Canyon is still in the early planning stages, this would be the fifth phase of development on the site by Plains Exploration and Production Company (PXP). No hydraulic fracking is proposed.
The company applied for a permit in late 2012, and the San Luis Obispo County Planning and Building Department commissioned an initial study of the project’s potential effects, noting that significant impacts were expected in regard to aesthetics, air quality, wildlife, noise, and driving conditions. On May 14, the SLO County Board of Supervisors approved a contract with Marine Research Specialists, Inc. to perform a full-fledged Environmental Impact Report, as required by the California Environmental Quality Act. The contract appeared on the supervisors’ consent calendar and wasn’t discussed at the meeting.
According to a staff report, the review is expected to cost just less than $354,000 with optional peer tasks, hearings, and meetings bringing the total bill to roughly $476,500. PXP will eventually reimburse the county through administrative processing fees.
The site’s current operation includes nearly 100 active producing wells and 40 injector wells. Though PXP is authorized to produce 5,000 barrels per day, many approved wells remain undrilled, and actual production levels hover around 1,000 barrels per day. The oil is trucked to the Conoco Phillips Battles pump station in Santa Maria.
Historically, the company has been limited to drilling 37 new wells per year, which means the proposed expansion would take 10 years to complete. According to the initial study, two 60-foot drilling rigs will be visible from public roads throughout the development, and work crews with heavy equipment will likely interrupt traffic. The construction of new access roads and well pads will require an estimated 1,650 oak trees and 1,200 manzanitas to be cut down.