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State Issues Emergency Repair Orders Over Continuing Maintenance Issues At South Coast Oil Field

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The questions continue to grow over efforts to get an oil company which owns dozen of oil wells off the Ventura County coastline to repair, or replace what the state calls corroded and damaged equipment.

The State Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources has issued two orders in that last four months to Rincon Island Limited Partnership, which has more than 75 wells on what’s known as Rincon Island. It’s a man-made island off of tens of thousands of people see every day as they drive on Highway 101 between Ventura and Carpinteria. The concern is aging, idle wells could be a recipe for disaster.

On Monday, Democratic State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson called on the State Lands Commission to terminate Rincon Island’s lease of the state property. But, the company filed for bankruptcy, in an effort to protect its lease from termination. Because of the bankruptcy filing, the Commission pulled a planned discussion of the lease off the agenda of its meeting on Tuesday.

State inspectors say after the first repair orders were issued in April, they were called out by Rincon in June, to re-inspect the island, with the company saying it had made progress. But, the inspectors say aside from cosmetic improvements like the painting of valves and pipelines and some rust removal, there had been no meaningful repairs or replacement work to the wellhead infrastructure.

Don Drysdale, with the State Department of Conservation, says the wells haven’t pumped oil for years, and that being idle that long creates concern. He emphasizes that they haven’t had a major leak, or spill from the site. But, they are trying to get action before there is a disaster. The second set of repair orders issued this week also highlight a number of security issues. Inspectors contend that trespassers can and do visit the island by foot, and by watercraft. They also say without beefed up security, there’s the risk of and uncontrolled oil release due to vandalism, or sabotage.

The order issued this week is an emergency order, and as such, Rincon has to immediately start work. If it doesn’t, the state regulators can hire contractors to do the work, and bill the company.