Ventura County's environmental watchdogs

• Taking on the oil industry 
• Campaigning for clean air and water
• Advocating for the health and safety of our residents 

As residents of the fastest-warming county in the lower 48 states, we are more motivated than ever to help build a sustainable future for our planet. Climate First: Replacing Oil and Gas (CFROG) has built a team of experts to challenge the status quo with facts and commonsense proposals to fight bad projects that hurt our environment and jeopardize our health.

Our success speaks for itself:

    • Won unanimous Board of Supervisors vote for a moratorium to stop new cyclic steam oil drilling activities in the Oxnard Plain in order to protect our water.
    • Fought to successfully deny an expanded oilfield near a low-income community with a high pollution burden.
    • Put oil companies on notice with a long-sought vote by the Board of Supervisors to bring all new projects under modern environmental review.
    • Supported  the inclusion of a robust climate action plan in Ventura County’s new General Plan.
    • Administered a successful community air monitoring program in low-income communities.


Participate in the CalGEM rulemaking process

 

CFROG believes that public health should always come before oil industry profits. We encourage residents, especially those who live near oil extraction, to express their concerns in the current Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM) rulemaking process.

To fulfill its recently strengthened mission to protect public health, safety, and the environment, CalGEM is undertaking a process to update public health and safety protections for communities near oil and gas production operations.

The rulemaking process will involve extensive public input and consider the best available science and data to inform new and strengthened protective requirements.

We urgently recommend you send in your written comments to:

CalGEMRegulations@conservation.ca.gov
or by postal mail to:
​Department of Conservation
801 K Street, MS 24-02
Sacramento, CA 95814
ATTN: Public Health near Oil Gas Rulemaking

For more information, go to:

https://www.conservation.ca.gov/calgem/Pages/Public-Health.aspx

For CFROG's talking points on buffers, steam extraction, groundwater protection, flaring and tanker traffic, please go here.


Home page aerial photo by Jimmy Young.

  • From the blog

    Federal agencies work to dirty our air while we fight respiratory illness


    While Americans are sheltering in their homes in order to protect their health, federal agencies are working hard to unravel other safeguards for them. 

    On March 28 the Environmental Protection Agency issued an order that absolves polluters from federal enforcement of many reporting duties required under the laws governing our air, water and lands. The oil and gas industry, in particular, asked for regulations to be relaxed.

    The memorandum from the EPA stipulates that industry must document violations of operations such as integrity testing or air quality monitoring, but are only required to report if asked, letting them off the hook if something is wrong.

    For example, oil refineries are mandated to monitor releases of benzene, a chemical which is known to cause cancer. Last year at least 10 refineries across the U.S. exceeded allowed thresholds.

    The memo also abdicates enforcement of other violations to state and local governments, which vary widely in their approaches to polluters. It is not known at this time how California will respond to this dereliction of duty at the federal level.

    Worse, the EPA issued another order on March 29 which will allow refineries to stop producing their less polluting summer blends. And on March 31, the feds dealt clean air another blow by revoking the fuel economy standards put in place by President Obama in 2012, the biggest U.S. effort toward combatting climate change and cleaning our air.

    This is part of a continuing effort to not only unravel all of Obama's legacy, but also do the bidding of the oil industry, which includes pulling out of the Paris climate accords and dismantling the Clean Power Plan which would have reduced carbon pollution from power plants.

    California has especially been in the crosshairs. In September, the administration announced that it was revoking California's waiver under the Clean Air Act to set stricter standards for vehicle emissions. Also targeted are the state's Zero Emissions Vehicle policy and cap-and-trade system, all lynchpins in our ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and thus become a model for the U.S. and the world on tackling climate change.

    The timing could not be worse. According to John Balmes, professor of occupational and environmental medicine at UCSF, "There is fairly strong evidence that air pollution increases the risk of acute low respiratory infections. And it may have contributed to the extent of the outbreak in Wuhan."

    As we battle a new public health threat, we must be cognizant of the one that already existed — climate change. We will pull through these dark times using science to combat the coronavirus. We cannot turn our backs on the science that already exists to keep us from the dangers of a warming planet.

    Read more

    Why oil wells must be at least 2,500 feet from schools



    In 2006, a 3.1-magnitude earthquake on the San Cayetano Fault damaged a well in the Ojai Oil Field which began spewing a mixture of brine water, oil and other chemicals at the rate of 210 gallons per minute. Summit School, with a population of approximately 80 K-6 students, was within 1,000 feet of the toxic mix.


    Because the well casing break was very difficult to get under control, it continued to flow for three months. Finally, after accruing a cost of $4 million, the rupture was stopped.

    During the entire time the well was being worked on, no one at the school was notified of the disaster unfolding on the hillside upwind from it. Children continued to play on the playground, teachers taught physical education, parents with babies dropped off and picked up their students. 

    Where was the Ventura County Environmental Health Department? Where was the state agency in charge of oil and gas?

    After the well was capped and the drill rigs and heavy equipment all cleared out, a parent of children at the school was told of the disaster by an oilfield worker. Teachers, parents and staff were collectively horrified. There was never any follow-up study or even a quick check-in to see how the children of Summit School were doing.

    I was an elementary school principal in Ojai Unified School District for 22 years. In my role, among other things, I was responsible for ensuring the health and safety of children assigned to my school. I am also on the board of Climate First: Replacing Oil and Gas (CFROG).

    I believe the County of Ventura is not providing enough protections for children in schools near oil production.

    The draft Environmental Impact Report for the county’s General Plan Update proposes an increased buffer between schools and homes of 1,500. That is inadequate. Studies show adverse health impacts from oil and gas facilities at distances of at least half a mile. Buffers should be increased from the currently proposed 1,500 feet to 2,500 feet.

    The reasoning given for this is to allow a potential operator, who wants to drill an oil well without directional drilling, to place the oil well anywhere on the drill pad.

    This stretches common sense. If the future operator can drill horizontally from 1,500 feet away as stated in the draft, why not from 2,500 feet? There is a difference in the cost of drilling, but the risk to the health and safety of young children far outweighs the small economic cost to an operator or two.

    Many young children suffer from asthma and skin allergies. All children love to run and play at recess. It is critical that those sensitive children are protected from unwanted and unnecessary exposure to air toxins that may cause serious complications leading to poor school attendance and miserable days of recovery time.

    In my last assignment before retiring, I was principal at a school with three classrooms of special needs children, some of whom were medically fragile and who suffered from life-threatening childhood illnesses. This latter group of children were often highly sensitive to changes in their environment and the reactions they suffered were sometimes immediate and very serious.

    I remember asking one mother of such a child, “When would you like me to call 911?” Her response was, “Any time you want to.” As chilling as that sounds, it was real.

    A setback distance of 2,500 feet, roughly one-third of a mile, is about all we can do to protect the health of young children at a school near active or idle oil and gas activities.

    We owe it to them to provide a safe and healthy atmosphere for learning.

    Read more