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

    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

    Taxpayers should not have to pick up the tab for fossil-fuel industry cleanup



    None of us would walk out of a restaurant after eating a huge meal without paying and then expect others to clean up our mess. But that is what the state's oil companies are doing by abandoning wells and expecting taxpayers to pick up the cost.

    Climate First: Replacing Oil and Gas was dismayed to learn that oil companies have given the state only $110 million to clean up onshore oil and gas wells when the estimated tab is closer to $6 billion.

    Across much of California, fossil-fuel companies are leaving thousands of oil and gas wells unplugged and idle, potentially threatening the health of people living nearby and, when the time comes for the environmental cleanup, taxpayers will be handed a multibillion-dollar bill.

    Close to home, the state has already had to take over responsibility for dozens of wells on both Rincon Island in Ventura County and Platform Holly in Santa Barbara County.

    A recent study by the California Council on Science and Technology reveals 35,000 wells sitting idle. Many sit near the low-income neighborhoods in west Ventura. According to FracTracker, Ventura County has 2,022 idle wells as of the end of 2019. That is the fourth highest in California.

    People living near unplugged oil and gas wells face exposure to hazardous chemicals such as benzene and methane. According to a Los Angeles Times-Public Integrity analysis, more than 2 million Californians live near an unplugged oil or gas well, with Latino, black and low-income people living nearby at a slightly higher rate than the California population as a whole.

    California recently beefed up its regulations to make sure more cleanup money is available, but those measures don’t go far enough. CFROG is calling for a study on exactly how many orphan and failing wells there are in Ventura County and what the prospects are for an orderly transition away from fossil fuels.

    We believe the price tag for cleanup will increase as the industry continues its decline. California oil production has fallen nearly 60 percent from its peak in 1985.

    One of Ventura County's and the state’s largest producers, California Resources Corporation (CRC) is responsible for the third-most idle wells of any company in the state and faces cleanup costs larger than its total market value. If CRC were to go under, other companies would probably buy some of the wells, but many could become the problem of state taxpayers.

    The Ventura County Board of Supervisors needs to address this dilemma as it updates its General Plan this year to lay out policies for the next 20 years. One step would be to require abandonment of one well for each new well permit that is issued. Other cities have done this.

    Taxpayers should not be picking up the tab for the fossil fuel industry.



    The purple dots represent idle wells in West Ventura County. Source: Los Angeles Times

    Read more