Update, October 2017:
Public hearing before the Ventura County Planning Commission is set for:
Thursday, October 19, 8:30am.
The City of Ojai has filed an appeal of the Ventura County Planning Director's approval of a permit renewal and modification (PL15-0187) at the Bentley Limited Family Partnership oil and gas lease, located behind Soule Park Golf Course and accessed via Creek Road in the Ojai Valley.
Status Summary: The Ventura County Planning Director has approved a permit extension for the continued operation of 9 oil and gas well for 20 years, and to remove conditions that:
- prohibited the use of a flare.
- required the use of pipelines to dispose of unused/unsold natural gas from the site.
- Allows 6 oil tanker trucks per week to access the site from Creek Road, and leave via the Creek Road/Hwy 33 intersection.
By approving this permit the county is allowing the operator to correct a violation without any consequences, without reporting to the public the true level of emissions that will result from the flare being use for primary disposal of natural gas.
Oil Well Details: The permit includes land where a total of 35 oil wells were approved and drilled since 1893. 26 of those wells are either "plugged and abandoned" or "buried." Today, the operator is seeking ongoing operation of nine wells. Six of which have been long idled, (one idle well is labeled as plugged) with three wells labeled as active. Idle wells can be quickly reactivated, while plugged wells require more work to get back to active status.
Idle Wells: CFROG has concerns regarding the long idled wells and aging infrastructure. We believe the county should incorporate policy that requires well abandonment and phase out long idle wells as responsible public health policy.
Flare/Permit Violation: The application also includes a request to allow the ongoing regular use of a flare to burn off the natural gas that comes up with the wells. The current CUP prohibits the use of a "primary" flare, and only allows flaring for "emergency" use because the operator is supposed to use a pipeline to move gas from the site. But, years ago the operator began to rely solely on the flare to dispose gas that is brought up with the oil - in violation of the land use permit. But instead of requiring the operator to comply with conditions of the permit, Ventura County is allowing the operator to modify the permit to allow the flare to be used as the primary method of gas disposal. All without actual monitoring of the amount of true emissions from the flare - whether the pilot is burning or it is flaring gas.
Aging infrastructure/Low producing oil fields: Ventura County continues to approves permits for decades into the future without any regard to the economic viability of the oil well. This puts the public at risk for being left on the hook for plugging and properly abandoning wells should an operator cease operations, declare bankruptcy or otherwise "orphan" the wells. The state requires minimal bonds that are a drop in the bucket against the true cost of proper plugging.
Truck Route: This permit modification includes restrictions on number of trucks (6 per week) and hours (none during peak morning and evening hours) but we have concerns that the oil tanker trucks are using the dangerous Creek Road/Highway 33 intersection. And a full impact assessment of the future traffic, if all wells are active etc. must be included in the project assessment.