In response to a deluge of comments on Excelaron’s proposed oil project in the Huasna Valley, the consultant decided to pump another $57,047 into a $356,417 Environmental Impact Report.
According to John McKenzie, a county senior environmental planner and the project manager, the original EIR contract was written to accommodate 150 unique comments. Excelaron’s project received more than 650 unique comments. In other words, that’s more than 650 potential impacts the EIR consultant, Marine Research Specialists, has to review and address. A final EIR is scheduled to be released in late December.
In 2009, Excelaron modified an earlier application and resubmitted with plans to drill four exploratory oil wells in the Huasna Valley—a small corner in southeastern San Luis Obispo County with a tumultuous history of failed oil prospecting—and another eight if the first phase proves successful. Once held by the Australian Oil Company, Excelaron’s leadership has since shifted to Canadian company United Hunter Oil & Gas Corp.
San Luis Obispo County supervisors approved the contract amendment on Nov. 8, though Excelaron will pay the additional cost. Residents and nearby property owners said they were happy to see more work on the EIR, but a few were concerned that the document might come up short.
Huasna Valley residents have long accused Excelaron of misrepresenting its plans. Ron Skinner, coordinator of the Huasna Valley Association, said the company is telling investors the total project could encompass potentially hundreds of wells (company officials have never talked officially about plans to capitalize on its mineral lease holdings beyond its application for 12 wells).
“What they’re telling their investors and what they’ve said in the EIR document are very different,” Skinner said.
Any issues with the scope of the EIR, however, won’t be vetted until the project comes before the county Planning Commission at a scheduled hearing in February 2012.