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Coastal Commission Approves Exxon Platforms Off Santa Barbara County

February 24, 1988

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The California Coastal Commission has approved a $2.5 billion plan for three offshore oil platforms in the Santa Barbara Channel, a plan first proposed by Exxon in 1981.

On an 8-2 vote, with one commissioner abstaining, the commission approved Exxon’s plans for the platforms, a marine terminal and onshore facility in Las Flores Canyon.

But the plan, which would more than double the state’s oil production, requires major changes in Exxon’s production methods. The company must dismantle an offshore treatment and storage ship now in use, commission spokesman Jack Liebster said Tuesday.

″We’re talking about state-of-the-art air pollution control to reduce the current levels,″ he said. ″Even with the expansion, this will result in a reduction of emissions.″

A 1987 agreement on air pollution controls was instrumental in breaking a political deadlock over Exxon’s plan, commission Chairman Michael Wornum said.

The company is producing up to 40,000 barrels a day on Platform Hondo, located between coastal Santa Barbara County and the Channel Islands. It processes the oil on an offshore vessel, a converted oil tanker moored in federal waters 3.1 miles offshore.

In 1984 the oil company sued the commission, and later sued Santa Barbara County, over its demands that Exxon stop using the converted tanker. In 1986 it renewed its lawsuit and issued an appeal to the Interior Department.

Commission approval was the result of compromises reached on all sides, including environmentalists, who agreed with Tuesday’s decision, said Ralph Faust, another commission spokesman.

Following the vote, Terry C. Leftgoff, spokesman for the environmental group Get Oil Out, said the Exxon project is ″the best that we could hope for in a regulatory environment.″