CFROG files suit to protect air and public health in Upper Ojai


In a three to two vote on June 21 the VC Board of Supervisors denied our appeal. On July 23 CFROG filed a suit against Ventura County to ensure the air quality of the Ojai Valley is protected and public health and safety is a top priority. 

  • ISSUE 1 - This project, if approved, will set a dangerous new precedent allowing oil tanker trucks to have permission from Ventura County to use the intersection of Koenigstein Road and Highway 150 in Upper Ojai. The current operator has been using that intersection in violation of their permit since another route was washed out during storms 1993. The company waited until the permit was up for renewal to "abate" their violations by applying for permission to the use the road. 

at_intersection_looking_east.jpg

  • ISSUE 2 - Violations of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) related to air quality emissions and project segmentation. The project is located within the Ojai Valley Area Plan which has strict air quality rules, CFROG's appeal points out how County air assessment guidelines are inconsistent with those strict rules, thus creating a finding in violation of the area plan and the Ventura County General Plan which is the lead document. See the appeal report below for more information.
  • Other issues related to CEQA include: cumulative impacts, certain guidelines used by planning violate the General Plan. 

DOCUMENTS - 

Petition for Writ of Mandate: CFROG v. Ventura County 

CFROG Appeal Report

Sulphur Mountain Seep Study

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Ojai Valley Area Plan

VIDEO of Intersection 

Mr. John Davis, a resident of Koenigstein Road has filed a separate appeal of this project, his appeal will be heard the same day. HERE is his appeal document submitted to the Board of Supervisors. 

- ACTION DETAILS - 


Applicant: Mirada Petroleum - Santa Paula based operator 

Appellant: CFROG

Location: in the Upper Ojai Valley

Issues:

CFROG is asking the Ventura County Board of Supervisors to not follow the recommendation to approve issued by the Ventura County Planning Department but to instead send the permit back to the Planning Department in order to - 

  1. ensure the permit is consistent with the Ojai Valley Area Plan. CFROG uncovered a map error that placed this project outside of the Ojai Valley Area Plan. But since the project is within the boundaries of the OVAP stricter air emissions rules apply. But County planning applies guidelines in consistent with the Ojai Valley Area Plan (which is part of the Ventura County General Plan) in processing air emissions figures. 
  2. Uphold the decades old prohibition of oil tanker trucks using Koenigstein Road to get to Highway 150. Mirada has been using that route in violation of its current permit for decades. CFROG is asking the Board of Supervisors to enforce land use permit conditions. 
  3. Stop the segmentation of oil and gas projects. The California Environmental Quality Act prohibits projects from being broken up into pieces, thus circumventing a complete review and understanding of the impacts of the project. 

 HERE is the County Subsequent Environmental Impact Report (SEIR)

Background - 

CFROG Responds to Ventura County Planning Director's

Memo to the City of Ojai

To: Rob Clark, Ojai City Manager
From Richard Holly, advisory member of CFROG
Re:  Item 8 on 1/12/2016 Ojai City Council Agenda
 
CFROG's response to 1/07/2016 memo from Planning Director Kim Prillhart regarding Mirada Petroleum Project PL13-0158

January 2016
 
The County’s analysis that newly proposed oil wells in Ventura County are exempt from the departments’ CEQA review of this and other discretionary projects is incorrect.
 
Under the Planning Department’s analysis there would be no limit to the number of oil wells in the Upper Ojai exempted from environmental review and comment by the City of Ojai.  For instance, if this was an application to drill 25 or 50 new wells, there would be no need to provide Ojai notice and review authority of the project!
 
Ms. Prillhart’s and Mr. Thomas’ position that new oil well drilling projects are exempt from environmental review regarding air pollution emissions is fundamentally inconsistent with CEQA, the Ventura County General Plan, and the Ojai Valley Area Plan specific provisions to the contrary.
 
The major premise appears to be that there need be no CEQA review because oil wells must be permitted and such permits are ministerial. 
 
However, the VCAPCD regulations regarding ministerial permitting of oil wells are not applicable to the county’s discretionary decision as to whether the application to modify the CUP to drill three new wells should be granted.  This distinction is explicitly recognized in the Ventura County Air Quality Assessment Guidelines “Emissions that should be counted toward the ROC and NOx significance threshold include any emissions that will occur as a result of approval of some type of discretionary use permit.” (VCAQ Guidelines, 5.3, emphasis added.)
 
That is, whether to grant the subject application to modify the CUP to allow three new wells is a discretionary decision that requires CEQA review.  CEQA review of course includes all the potential environmental physical impacts from the proposed project including air pollution emissions from the wells.  Once there has been an environmental review, including whether the project will exceed the air pollution threshold in the OVAP, and if the application is granted in whole or in part, the subsequent permitting of such wells is a ministerial act that would require no further environmental review.
CEQA requires environmental review of the whole project and does not allow for exempting oil well air pollutions.
 
Unfortunately, the county’s memo confuses the oil well permitting process with the discretionary environmental review process applicable to this project.
 
In summary, what this all boils down to is that the county’s claim that the emissions from the proposed new oil wells should not be considered in the SEIR is inconsistentwith the General Plan, the OVAP and a material violation of CEQA.
 
Failure to give the City of Ojai notice and review authority of the project
     
The City of Ojai requests the Ventura Planning Department to continue the scheduled hearing before the Ventura County Planning Commission to allow sufficient time to allow the city review authority of the project (OVAP § 1.1.3(5).)
           
Additionally, the Planning Department’s failure to include the City of Ojai in the review process of this project is also inconsistent with its’ practices and policies. Prior to the discovery that the planning department’s approval of this project erroneously omitted an analysis pursuant to the OVAP, the Planning Department provided notice to the City of Santa Paula.