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Fossil fuels and alternatives in Ventura County

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  • Paul Jenkin
    Workers try to keep oil spill out of Sespe Creek This spill confirms what I have been saying for years, drilling for oil is a dirty business, Gas station
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 1, 2007
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      Workers try to keep oil spill out of Sespe Creek
      "This spill confirms what I have been saying for years, drilling for oil is a dirty business,"

      Gas station opens public biodiesel pumps
      "a great step toward diversifying Ventura's energy resources ...help build a regional market for biodiesel."
                   (also see http://www.socalbug.org/ )

      By Kevin Clerici, kclerici@...
      February 1, 2007

      Local dignitaries Wednesday hailed the opening of the first public biodiesel pumps at a Ventura County gas station.

      For an introductory price of $3.09 a gallon, motorists could fill their traditional diesel engines Wednesday with American-made, biodegradable fuel derived from natural sources such as soybean and other vegetable oils, animal fats, and grease from restaurant kitchens.

      But the reservoir of clean-burning fuel could quickly dry up. After officials assembled to cut the celebratory ribbon Wednesday, the operator of USA Gas at 2661 Thompson Blvd. in Ventura acknowledged the station had been sold and he had no way of ensuring the biodiesel would stay.

      The facility is among 390 Shell Oil and USA gasoline stations to be acquired by San Antonio oil giant Tesoro Corp, which also will buy Shell's Wilmington refinery. The deal was announced Monday.

      "I have no control over what Tesoro will choose to do," said Kristopher Moller, whose father, John Moller, built USA Petroleum Corp. into one of the state's largest chains of independent gas stations. Kristopher Moller didn't know specifics but projected the change in ownership could be finalized in a few months.

      Reached Wednesday, a Tesoro spokeswoman said it was too soon to say if the two biodiesel pumps would stay. Tesoro owns refineries in California, Hawaii, Alaska, Washington, Utah and North Dakota and has more than 450 gas stations, none of which currently offers biodiesel, she said.

      "We will have to wait for information on it to determine what we will do," spokeswoman Natalie Silva said, adding the company was open to the possibility.

      Ventura Mayor Carl Morehouse, after learning of the situation, told Moller he would send a letter on city stationery in support of keeping the biodiesel pumps. At Wednesday's ceremony, Morehouse called the pumps a great step toward diversifying Ventura's energy resources and said he hoped they would help build a regional market for biodiesel.

      For now, the Ventura station will offer a blend of 99 percent biodiesel and 1 percent petroleum diesel, Moller said.

      Workers try to keep oil spill out of Sespe Creek

      By Zeke Barlow, zbarlow@...
      February 1, 2007

      Workers are trying to keep about 200 gallons of oil that spilled into Tar Creek from spreading to Sespe Creek, a popular watering hole for California condors.

      The oil came from a pipe that ruptured Tuesday in the Sespe Oil Fields.

      "It is significant from the standpoint of its potential impact to wildlife," said Dave Christy, spokesman for the Bureau of Land Management, which has regulatory oversight of the drilling sites north of Fillmore. "It's a fairly small amount of oil, but we still take it seriously."

      More than 3,000 gallons of salty mineral water that is extracted along with oil was also spilled when the pipe ruptured about 1 p.m. Tuesday.

      The pipe, which fed into a holding tank where the oil is separated from water, is owned by Oklahoma-based Vintage Production.

      Workers tried to contain the oil by building berms and using absorption materials, but the oil still made it to Tar Creek, Christy said. As of Wednesday, the spill was about five miles upstream from Sespe Creek, he said.

      Because Tar Creek has naturally occurring oil seepages, officials are having trouble discerning if the sheen on the water is natural or a result of the spill, he said.

      However, biologists want to keep the spill from traveling farther downstream to the confluence of the Sespe Creek because it is a popular spot for the California condors to drink and roost. The oil fields, which have been around since the 1800s, are surrounded by Los Padres National forest, the Sespe Condor Sanctuary and Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge, which together comprise one of the few breeding grounds for condors, an endangered bird that once teetered on the brink of extinction.

      Mark Hall, the refuge manager, said the spill was relatively small and shouldn't pose a problem to the condor, one of America's largest birds.

      "It's nothing like an oil spill on the beach," he said. "There is no risk of these birds being covered with oil."

      However, some fish and invertebrates could have problems with the oil, he said.

      This week's rain made the oil move quickly in creeks that might not have been running without the new water, Christy said.

      When the Forest Service announced plans to open up some parts of the Sespe Oil Fields to new drilling in 2005, environmentalists decried the decision, saying it could harm the condors. Though the new drilling has not begun, activists said Wednesday the oil spill proves new drilling shouldn't take place.

      "They shouldn't be looking to expand drilling when they can't control an oil spill," said Jeff Kuyper, executive director for Los Padres ForestWatch. "We don't have adequate oversight of the drilling that is going on today."

      Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, sent out a news release expressing concern about the mishap.

      "This spill confirms what I have been saying for years, drilling for oil is a dirty business," she wrote.

      Paul Jenkin
      Environmental Director
      Surfrider Foundation Ventura County Chapter
      Coordinator, Matilija Coalition
      (805) 648-4005   pjenkin@...

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