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Excelaron comes up dry

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The San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission shot down oil drilling in the Huasna Valley.

On March 8, county planning commissioners voted 4-1 to deny Excelaron’s application to drill as many as 12 oil wells and build the corresponding facilities in the rural Huasna Valley area east of Arroyo Grande.

Commissioner Dan O’Grady was the only dissenting vote.

Planning staffers recommended denial of the project based on multiple environmental impacts outlined in the project’s Environmental Impact Report.

Near the close of the hearing, Carol Florence of Oasis Associates, a representative for the applicant, asked commissioners to take the project off-calendar, so Excelaron could work with staffers to address some hanging concerns. Florence asked that the project might be split so Excelaron could pursue a smaller exploratory project (Excelaron has proposed to drill four exploratory wells with an additional eight wells if the project proves profitable), but staffers and commissioners opted to make a final decision.

Principal Environmental Specialist John Nall said splitting the project would likely have no impact on the staff recommendation.

“Where we’ll end up is with the same conclusions,” he said.

Planning Commissioner Carlyn Christianson—noting she’s “lived with this project for nearly three years”—said she couldn’t justify voting for the project given its environmental impacts to Huasna.

“Oil fields may very well belong in our county … but I think not in the Huasna Valley,” she said.

Excelaron appealed the decision on March 12. The company wrote that its basis for the appeal is because “there is no substantial evidence in the record to support the findings for project denial.”

The appeal will go to SLO County supervisors for a decision. An appeal hearing hadn’t been scheduled as of press time.

On March 14, the Huasna Valley Association posted to its Facebook page: “Sadly, Excelaron insists that we all spend even more time and money focusing on their unsuitable project, instead of using the County’s limited time and resources attending to more valued business.”

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