Matt King, communications director for Santa Monica-based Heal the Bay, as he heads out for a recent surfing session, during which he believes he spotted a young great white shark swimming in the Santa Monica Bay. (Photo courtesy Matt King)

SM BAY — Sick of election talk? Here’s one more for you. On March 3, Hermosa Beach residents will decide at the polls whether or not to allow a company to drill for oil from underneath the sea floor — the sea floor of our very own Santa Monica Bay.

The special election would ask residents whether or not an oil drilling moratorium should be repealed. At least two Santa Monica City Council members think it shouldn’t.

Mayor Pro Tempore Terry O’Day and Councilmember Ted Winterer have put forth a resolution, to be considered by the rest of council on Dec. 9, that would oppose drilling in the Santa Monica Bay.

The measure is largely symbolic, as Santa Monica has little control over the matter.

E&B Natural Resources wants to put up an 87-foot drilling rig and add up to 34 gas or oil and wastewater injection wells in a 1.3-acre plot six blocks from the beach, according to city officials. They could extract up to 8,000 barrels of oil a day from underneath the sea floor over a 34 year period, the proposed resolution claims.

“The proposed oil drilling project would be precedent-setting with the potential to undermine the many environmental improvements that residents, environmental groups, municipalities, and many others have advanced over the past few decades throughout Los Angeles County,” the resolution states.

The resolution claims that oil drilling would pose a “significant threat” to the health of the bay, citing an official environmental report, which highlights the potential for spills or explosions, along with unavoidable impacts on air quality, biology, hydrology, land use, aesthetics, noise, recreation, and safety.

Currently, no drills harvest oil from underneath the bay, the resolution states.

Eric Rose, a spokesperson for E&B, takes issue with the proposed resolution’s claims.

“The resolution is inherently incorrect inasmuch as there is no drilling planned in the bay,” he said in an e-mail to the Daily Press. “In addition, the proposed plan uses directional drilling that is extremely safe and that there is no fracking. There are 698 active wells from Santa Barbara to Newport Beach that are drilled the way E&B Natural Resources is proposing. I would suggest that the City view the project website to see that we have demonstrated in Huntington Beach, safe oil recovery can be the norm.”

The resolution claims there is a “significant chance of an oil spill” anywhere along the project’s pipeline and that an oil spills impacts could be wide-reaching, as demonstrated by small spill in El Segundo, which reached Malibu Lagoon and South Bay.

“An oil spill in the Santa Monica Bay,” the resolution says, “would be disastrous to the marine environment with significant and unavoidable impacts to residents and visitors who live near and recreate on Los Angeles County beaches, our local economy and tourism, water quality, and the health of marine life.”

The effects, it says, could last for decades.

Heal the Bay, the Santa Monica-based environmental nonprofit, was even more direct.

“Oil spills know no boundaries,” they said in a release. “With nearly 50 million annual visits to local beaches and a coastal economy worth over $10 billion, a spill off Hermosa Beach would be a financial and ecologic nightmare for all of Los Angeles.”

Further, the resolution claims, the oil project would use up lots of much needed water in the midst of a drought. During drilling and the production of injection wells, the project could use up to 122 million gallons of recycled water per year, city officials say.

If the voters uphold the moratorium, Heal the Bay says, Hermosa Beach will have to pay E&B a $17.5 million penalty.

“The city has already set aside $6 million for this purpose,” the nonprofit claims, “and staff is researching other fiscally prudent ways to pay the remainder of the $17.5 million over time that would not put undue hardship on city budgets.”

E&B claims that Hermosa Beach stands to gain half a billion dollars from the project and that about a thousand property owners in the city will get royalty payments from their mineral rights that could amount to $100,000 or more.

Heal The Bay questions the company’s numbers, noting that “no one can say for sure how productive any of its proposed 34 wells might be.”

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