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Proposed Oil Field Expansion Has Neighbors Up in Arms

SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY, Calif. - There is a proposed expansion of an oil field in the Price Canyon area. Neighbors living near the existing oil field are up in arms over the idea of new wells.

There are many wells currently pumping oil at the Arroyo Grande Oil Field, part of the oil operation run by Freeport-McMoRan Oil & Gas off Price Canyon Road. 150 to 165 producing wells are active daily, including 40 injector wells. In all, 1,000 barrels of oil comes out of there everyday.

The company wants to expand the operation.

That would include 350 new wells and 100 replacement wells, bringing the approved daily oil production from 5,000 to 10,000 barrels a day. The expansion would add 50-60 new jobs.

San Luis Obispo County held an environmental impact report meeting last night, allowing people living near the project to get informed on what changes could be coming.

This proposed expansion isn't going over so well with many homeowners in the nearby area, who fear that more work being done at the field equals more interference into their daily lives.

"It's a huge, huge expansion," says Sheila Blake, a homeowner near Price Canyon. "Everyone was doubtful. I didn't hear anyone at that meeting utter any positive words for this operation."

That was the general consensus among neighbors. Many declined to go on camera, but all had concerns with groundwater contamination, increased smell of sulfur from the oil field, and more congestion on roads near their house.

Freeport-McMoRan Oil & Gas sent a statement. The statement reads:

The Arroyo Grande Oil Field has been in continual operation for nearly 100 years. Our engineers estimate that only 10% of the total oil in place has been recovered. Because of their very long lives, oil fields like Arroyo Grande are typically developed in a phased deliberate manner that is planned out several years in advance.  The application submitted to the county  was designed to promote the efficient development of the oil field in a manner that is phased in at a reasonable rate of activity.

During the next phase of development we are seeking approval to install 350 new wells while replacing approximately 100 existing wells.  We have designed the program in a way that is intended to spread the activity out over a period of time that will minimize the total amount of impacts at any one point.  We anticipate drilling on average 45 wells per year. 

The program has been designed to limit new disturbance.  To the greatest extent possible the proposed drilling activity will occur on existing well pads.  The total amount of new disturbance will be limited to roughly 5% of the total oil field.   

We anticipate that the approval of the project will result in an expansion in production levels that will generate additional ad valorem revenue for the county and the creation of 50-60 new jobs in the field over the life of the drilling program.

For neighbors, enough is enough.

Blake asked, "Isn't the oil company happy enough with what they've already got? Do they have to impose themselves on the neighbors and the neighborhood that doesn't want any development?"

A draft environmental impact report is likely to come by the end of the year. The public has until March 19th to submit comments that will be included in the report. Email comments to John McKenzie at jdmckenzie@co.slo.ca.us


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