The revision attempts to address criticisms of the original 2008 agreement by making its terms public, granting the state the right to enforce it and strengthening provisions to ensure an end to operations offshore from scenic Santa Barbara County.
A week after President Barack Obama moved to open many federal waters to drilling — except along the West Coast — local environmental groups accompanied by area political leaders unveiled the revised plan at Shoreline Park on a bluff overlooking the blue Pacific with oil rigs in the distance.
"The bottom line is this plan puts in place a timetable to end existing oil drilling off our coast and prevent any future drilling," said Rep. Lois Capps. "It's transparent. It's accountable. It's smart."
The plan, which needs government approval, would allow Plains Exploration & Production of Houston to slant drill up to 30 new shafts from an existing platform in federal waters into a formation in state waters.
The company, known as PXP, would shut down existing oil production from three offshore platforms in nine years and a fourth platform in 14 years. It would also remove two onshore support and processing facilities and hundreds of acres of onshore oil wells.
The environmentalist parties to the deal essentially do not view the plan as new drilling because it would use the existing Platform Irene.
Currently, 27 platforms operate off the Central and Southern California coasts. They produced 13.3 million barrels of oil in 2009, a very small amount of the overall national production.
Linda Krop, the attorney for the environmental groups, said the revised agreement would allow the California attorney general to enforce its terms by making the state a third-party beneficiary.
Backers also pointed to provisions requiring PXP to surrender its federal oil leases to eliminate the possibility that the four platforms could continue to operate after the end dates, and to prevent PXP from being forced by the federal government to continue producing.
Under the deal, PXP would also have to give up any profits resulting from a violation of the end dates.
Addressing another concern, the backers said there are no title or other issues to prevent PXP from turning over 3,900 acres on shore to the Trust for Public Land.
Word of the initial 2008 agreement stunned the wider environmentalist community because of the involvement of such vigorous petroleum foes as the group Get Oil Out!, which was spawned by outrage over a 1969 platform accident off Santa Barbara that fouled miles of ocean and beaches with wildlife-killing goo.
The deal garnered support from national groups such as the Sierra Club, which later withdrew its backing amid concerns that the contract was confidential and not enforceable.
Ultimately, the project was turned down during the public approval process at the State Lands Commission.
In addition to the then-private nature of the agreement, commissioners and other environmental groups also raised concerns that the end date may not be enforceable. Others worried that approving the project could inadvertently open up the entire California coastline to new drilling, ending a 40-year moratorium.
Since then, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has twice tried to revive the project, most recently with a proposal to use money generated from the drilling to fund state parks.
Krop later said she regretted that the initial agreement was confidential.
"Hopefully we will garner a lot of support" with the revision, she said Wednesday.
The State Lands Commission and California Coastal Commission would have to approve the agreement before it would take effect.
The makeup of the three-member State Lands Commission has changed since it last dealt with the issue. Its chairman at that time was then-Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, who strongly opposed the drilling deal. He has since been elected to Congress.
The Santa Barbara coast has some of California's most distinctive ocean vistas, encompassing the isles of Channel Islands National Park.
The Pacific coast was not included when Obama acted last week to allow oil drilling in federal waters on the East Coast from Delaware to central Florida and protected waters of northern Alaska. He also will seek to have Congress lift a drilling ban in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
Obama said new drilling was essential to maintain economic growth and national security. Reaction ranged from denunciation by environmentalists to enthusiasm by some for potential new jobs.
Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider endorsed the revised local agreement.
"This plan will not only put a stop to existing oil operations, but will also help us stop new federal leasing by closing down and removing existing oil infrastructure," she said.