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Oct. 17, 2003

The region’s air quality agency reached a penalty settlement today with an oil and gas facility next to Beverly Hills High School that will help safeguard public health by requiring continuous air quality monitoring at the site.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District reached the agreement with Carpinteria-based Venoco, Inc. to settle three air pollution violations issued by AQMD to Venoco earlier this year.

“In recent months, students, community members, school and city officials have expressed concerns about potential emissions from the oil facility and have asked for continuous monitoring at the site,” said Barry Wallerstein, AQMD’s executive officer.

“This responds to that request and will serve as an additional measure to protect public health.”

Under terms of today’s agreement, Venoco will:

  • Install, operate and maintain within six months two AQMD-approved continuous air quality monitors, one along the north fence line and the other along the east fence line bordering Beverly Hills High School.  The monitors will measure levels of total hydrocarbons, including methane, the major component of oil field gas;
  • Be prohibited from venting oil field gas into the atmosphere;
  • Install sensors within 30 days that would detect any unpermitted releases of oil field gas from the facility.  If such a release occurs, Venoco operators would have to notify AQMD within one hour; and
  • Develop a procedure to notify the Beverly Hills School District in the event of any oil field gas release.

In addition to the continuous monitoring, valued at more than $60,000, Venoco agreed to pay a $10,000 cash fine to AQMD within 30 days.

Today’s agreement settles the following three notices of violation issued to Venoco:

  • Venting natural gas contrary to air pollution permit conditions on several days, and for constructing the facility’s amine unit without a permit to construct;
  • Modifying the amine unit without a permit to construct; and
  • Failing to maintain and operate the facility’s clarifier, which separates oil from water, in good operating condition.

In conjunction with the settlement, AQMD today issued an air pollution permit to Venoco for a piece of equipment known as an amine gas treating unit.  Venoco’s amine unit is used to remove carbon dioxide from oil field gas so that it can meet specifications for commercial sale. AQMD’s permit requires air pollution control devices and a continuous emissions monitor for the amine unit.

AQMD is the air pollution control agency for Orange County and major portions of Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside counties.