Environmental group appeals new oil wells in Price Canyon
November 27, 2015
The nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity has appealed a decision by the San Luis Obipso County Planning Commission to let an Arizona natural resources company drill 31 new wells in Price Canyon near Pismo Beach. The Center for Biological Diversity argues the plan threatens underground water supplies.
Freeport-McMoRan, which mines precious metals and produces oil and gas, plans to to drill or replace a total 450 wells in Price Canyon. The 31 wells approved by the planning commission would comprise the initial phase of the expansion. Freeport-McMoRan currently pumps 5,000 barrels a day out of Price Canyon.
The primary grounds of the Center for Biological Diversity’s appeal is that Freeport-McMoRan is using a decade-old permit to expand its drilling operation. The appellant argues a new environmental review is needed.
County planners have approved a three-year extension of Freeport-McMoRan’s permit. As conditions for the permit extension, the planning commission mandated that the company install monitoring wells and conduct water-well testing upon the request of neighbors.
The SLO County Board of Supervisors will now decide whether or not to uphold the extension.
Center for Biological Diversity attorney Maya Golden-Krasner said the supervisors must not bend the rules and allow the dangerous drilling.
“It’s unsafe and irresponsible to renew the expired permit to drill these wells based on a cursory environmental review that’s 10 years old,” Golden-Krasner said. “The county must protect people’s water supplies from oil industry pollution.”
At least 100 water supply wells are within one mile of Freeport-McMoRan’s oilfield, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. Neighbors have expressed grave concern about contamination, and a hydrologist told county planners the oil company failed to provide data showing the wells will not be at risk of oilfield pollution, the environmental group states.
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