CFROG Files Opening Briefs in Santa Paula Canyon Lawsuit Against Ventura County

This week Citizens For Responsible Oil and Gas (CFROG) in partnership with fellow environmental watchdog organizations filed opening briefs in Ventura County Superior Court in their lawsuit against Ventura County, which seeks to enforce the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in a project expanding oil and gas operations in Santa Paula Canyon.

“CFROG is proud to join our partners Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and Los Padres ForestWatch (LPFW) in working to protect the amazing and unique Santa Paula Canyon from dangerous impacts related to expansion of oil and gas activities along the trail,” said Kimberly Rivers, CFROG Executive Director. “This action shows the importance of environmental regulation at the local level – regardless of what is going on at in the national sphere – right here in Ventura County our local government is charged with enforcing our environmental protection laws – CFROG is standing up and ensuring Ventura County does its duty, complies with the law and protects public health and the environment from risks and impacts related to expanding oil and gas activity – All of Ventura County is worth protecting.”

 VIEW our Opening Brief HERE.

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The lawsuit is aimed at ensuring Ventura County fully complies with CEQA when it processes and approves oil and gas permits and project expansions throughout the County.

California Resources Corporation (formerly Vintage, and a spin off from Occidental Petroleum) applied to modify their land use permit with Ventura County – they wanted to add 19 new oil wells in the Canyon and along Santa Paula Creek, behind Thomas Aquinas College. In approving the project Ventura County relied on an EIR done in 1978 – a lot has changed and the oil company was proposing major changes. The wells would be in critical habitat areas for the endangered California Condor and Steelhead Trout, increased truck traffic would contribute to air emissions, more wells and pipelines increase the risk of spills and leaks further jeopardizing surface and ground water, soil and wildlife - but the County failed to fully study the potential impacts to this diverse ecosystem and popular recreation area.

“An EIR from decades ago is woefully inadequate in assessing the current potential impacts, the California Condor was not even listed as endangered when the previous EIR was done,” said Rivers

CFROG and partners appealed the project to the Ventura County Board of Supervisors and in a 3-2 vote (Supervisors Steve Bennett and Linda Parks voted against the project going forward agreeing with CFROG and partners that further study and information was needed) they approved the project in 2015 – even with the knowledge the oil company had been violating permit conditions for decades, without any consequences.  

CFROG and fellow claimants filed legal action to enforce CEQA and ensure our local government does its duty to protect Ventura County from all potential impacts related to expanding oil and gas activities.

DONATE to CFROG today to support our ongoing efforts!

CFROG, CBD and LPFW are represented by the Hermosa Beach based environmental law firm of Chatten-Brown & Carstens. CFROG is also represented by the firm as the sole claimant in a second legal action against Ventura County, again regarding CEQA violations in the approval of an oil project expansion in the Upper Ojai Valley, (CFROG vs. County of Ventura; Mirada Petroleum Inc./ filed July 21, 2016)

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CFROG News Brief - Aquifers & Pipelines

Click the News Brief to see the full PDF to share and print. 

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HERE is a video from the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District Board on Feb. 14 when CFROG and supporters asked for forward thinking leadership when it comes to air emissions control across Ventura County. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rt3LanqNJls

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Call to Action: Notify Supervisors - Unmapped Pipelines in County with Unknown Environmental Impacts

On Tuesday, Feb. 7 CFROG will present a comment letter to the Board of Supervisors regarding a gap in oversight at the County level. Because maps and design plans for gathering pipelines on oil and gas sites are not required as part of the permit review/environmental assessment process - full impacts cannot be known. 

Gathering pipelines are used to transport everything that comes up with the oil (water, gas, drilling chemicals etc.) from the well to storage tanks to await separation and/or transportation. These pipelines are laced across oil leases throughout Ventura County - and yet our planning department does not track or assess or monitor them in any way - instead relying on maps held by the State, which are reviewed for maintenance purposes only. The County is the land use regulatory body, and has the duty to protect our environment. 

HERE is CFROG's Comment Letter about gathering pipelines. 

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This means - 

  • streams could be at risk from leaks and spills

  • sensitive wildlife habitats could be heavily impacted by installation of pipelines

  • waterways and groundwater sources could be at risk

  • a full and complete environmental impact assessment is impossible 

    • Our water, air, land and wildlife are being put in jeopardy!

THREE Ways to Act Locally -  Our Supervisors need to hear from you that our local environment is important, and that you count on them, as your local elected officials to stand up and protect the environment. 

 

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3 Ventura County Aquifers At Risk - Oil Industry Sues California

The California state oil and gas regulatory office - The Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) - has been sued by Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) and other trade groups over actions aimed at protecting groundwater aquifers from contamination related to oil field waste injection disposal. Read more about that lawsuit HERE.INjection_wells.png 

45 aquifers across the state, and three in Ventura County are part of a review to determine whether or not the dangerous waste injection wells should be shut down. A deadline of Feb. 15 looms for the review, while the industry says jobs and the economy will be impacted and the fines are too high if they don't shut the wells down on time. 

Oil companies have asked for three aquifers in Ventura County to be exempted from the Safe Drinking Water Act - thus allowing them to continue oil field waste injection disposal into the aquifer. An aquifer can only be exempted if the quality of the water in the aquifer is deemed to have no beneficial uses because the quality of water is already poor.

The three aquifers in Ventura County at issue are located:

  • in the Sespe Wilderness
  • North east of the community of Piru in Holser Canyon
  • on the Oxnard Plain. 

CFROG is coordinating with other environmental organizations to monitor and act. Stay Tuned! Support your local oil and gas watchdog organization - Donate to CFROG Today. 

Take LOCAL ACTION - Tell Elected Officials you want them to PROTECT OUR WATER!

Call your Supervisor - Let them know you want groundwater aquifers across Ventura County protected from the dangerous impact of oil field waste disposal injection, and that they should support the work being done by DOGGR, the EPA and the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board. District Info & Contact Info for all supervisors HERE. 

Take STATE Action - 

Call your State representatives - Let them know you support our State and DOGGR in working to protect our groundwater by shutting down dangerous oil field waste injection disposal wells, and you support the state vigorously fighting the lawsuit brought by WSPA. State elected officials contact information is HERE. 

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CFROG supports strong wildlife corridor/habitat protections

Tuesday, Jan. 24 at 1:30 pm the Ventura County Board of Supervisors is being asked to direct planning staff in the formation of a draft document that will aim to protect wildlife corridors and habitat - and will become part of the Ventura County General Plan. 

Click HERE to view the staff report, corridor map and public comments regarding the plan to protect wildlife habitat and corridors.

HERE is the power point presentation Ventura County planning staff will present at the hearing. 

Members of the public can submit comments to clerkoftheboard@ventura.org

Below is the letter CFROG submitted.

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Pattern at County Planning revealed in Quarry Permit

CFROG's mission is to make sure that oil and gas activities in Ventura County are only allowed when public health and the environment are protected. As part of that effort CFROG often makes comments on oil and gas project applications and land use permit modifications, and if appropriate file legal action.  

In doing that work we have witnessed a pattern within the Ventura County Planning Department - changes being made to permits without proper impact studies being done as required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). This body of laws is aimed at protecting the environment, but also ensuring the public has ample opportunity to review and comment on a project. 

Today - as I write this, the Ventura County Planning Commission is hearing an appeal of a land use permit for a rock quarry on Highway 33, north of the city of Ojai. CFROG has submitted comments regarding a change that occurred in the permit - without impact study - a time change in operating hours for the quarry. Why is that such a big deal? Well, because the route for those trucks takes them right past Nordhoff High School. 

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Are our local officials doing enough to protect our water?

They are moving in the right direction - and can do more. 

Photo - Anterra Energy, Wooley Road in Oxnard. A Commerical Class II Oil Field Waste facility that disposes of waste into an underground injection well. Recent tests of water wells within a half mile of Anterra have high levels of inorganic compounds. The facility is surrounded by strawberry fields. This is a GoogleEarth image from about 2013. 

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Yesterday, Oct 18, 2016,  the Ventura County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to provide better information to individuals applying for and receiving water well permits. And they asked staff to examine information provided by CFROG and report back. This is a good step. 

 Read todays article about the hearing at the VC Star website. 

Here are the few important points the article missed -

    1. Toluene and other pollutants HAVE been found in groundwater wells in Ventura County. The well water is in fact contaminated. Recent test results held by the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control District (LARWQCD), show that groundwater in at least two locations is contaminated. And we do not yet know the full scope of the issue - water quality tests from two locations have been received. More are sure to be ordered.
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CFROG Exposes Groundwater Contamination in Ventura County

CFROG exposes evidence of Groundwater basin contamination – CLICK HERE TO VIEW OUR REPORT AND SEE TEST RESULTS

During the Oct 18, 2016 meeting of the Ventura County Board of Supervisors, Citizens For Responsible Oil and Gas (CFROG) will urge the Board and county staff to become the guardians of our increasingly fragile and diminishing water supply. 

CFROG and the general public have been told,

"there are no oil sumps in Ventura County"

and

"oil and gas activities have never polluted ground water aquifers.”

Both statements are false.

Here is an example of a sump used to dispose of oil field waste 

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Oil Waste Company SCWW Sues County - Says Regulations Are Too Tough

Santa Paula, CA - 

On September 27 at 8:30 am there will be a hearing in Ventura County Superior Court, Department 20 regarding a case filed by Santa Clara Waste Water Company (SCWW) against Ventura County Environmental Health department. The legal action was filed on August 8, 2016. 

SCWW in Santa Paula was the site of a 2014 massive explosion when chemicals from a vacuum truck interacted with other chemicals on site. HERE is a NEWS report. SCWW owners and supervisors were indicted on 71 counts related the explosion. The explosion injured employees and firemen responding to the emergency and sent a toxic plume into the air.  


scww_explosion.pngAccording to a letter dated Sept 8, 2016  to the County from Sespe Consulting, on behalf of their client SCWW, the legal action relates to stricter regulations that SCWW will have to adhere to due to the County calling the company a "large quantity generator of hazardous waste." The letter goes on to state, 

"The NTC and County decisions now require the facility to operate as a large quantity generator of hazardous waste. If it were to be subjected to these requirements, it could impose many costly staffing, training, operational, permitting and regulatory requirements that could impact the company's ability to operate as it has for decades. No activities have occurred on the property since August 5, 2016. SCWW has filed a civil action requesting relief related to the NTC (and related matters). SCWW is planning that as soon as the civil matter is resolved, work will continue on the property pursuant to the EUA. All work activities described below occurred on or before August 5, 2016." 

 NTC means "Notice To Comply" 

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Air Pollution Hearing Board to Issue Subpoena to Crimson Pipeline

Aug 29, 2016 - Responding to pressure from CFROG and frustrated with oil industry secrecy the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District hearing board has voted unanimously to issue a subpoena to force Crimson Pipeline to explain why most of its Santa Paula area pipelines are shut down and when they will reopen.

"The APCD hearing board deserves praise for asking serious and informed questions and for the rare and important step of voting unanimously to force the pipeline company to answer questions about why the Santa Paula area pipelines are shut down," said John Brooks, President of CFROG. " Until they are operating again the pollution from up to 20 tanker trucks per day will spew into our air." 

The Crimson v10 pipeline in Ventura spilled nearly 30 thousand gallons of crude oil into a barranca on June 23rd. 

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Photo - Hall Canyon Oil Spill from Crimson Pipeline - June 23, 2016, Ventura.

Now the company, citing only "unscheduled maintenance " has shut down its South Mountain pipelines forcing California Resources Company (CRC) to use 20 tanker trucks to move up to 2000 barrels of oil a day. Because its permit requires the use of a pipeline to protect the public from diesel particles and reactive hydrocarbons ,CRC had to go to the air board to get a short term variance. CRC told the board that Crimson had given them no notice of the shutdown and will not say when the pipelines will be fixed, if indeed they have failed. Board members were shocked at the secrecy and failure of the pipeline company to inform its major customer what is going on.


If the pipelines are not operational and the trucking has not stopped in 90 days a subpoena will be issued to force Crimson to come to the next hearing on November 21st. 


The company will either chose to tell the board and the public what is taking place or exercise the right guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of refusing to answer questions in order to avoid incriminating itself.


CFROG members addressed the hearing board and made certain the variance was granted only for a short time period and warned Santa Paula residents that if the one remaining South Mountain Ojai pipeline is shut down, the 20 tanker trucks per day will be forced to leave the oil field and take city streets to Highway 126. CRC did not disclose the route those trucks would take. 
If the Crimson pipelines are corroded or malfunctioning CFROG obviously supports proper maintenance, but the public should be informed of the reason why an increase of pollution is taking place due to truck and tanker emissions.


Crimson has a history of pipeline spills. Corrosion was the cause for four spills in California since 2006, Five spills — one of which involved corrosion — have occurred in Ventura County during the same period. The Ventura spill in June is unofficially blamed on a poorly installed valve. There have been no federal inspections of Crimson pipelines since at least 2006.

For information on the hearing, CLICK HERE. 

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