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.”
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.
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)