November 14, 2017 - #CFROG Wins!
Superior Court finds Ventura County violates state laws!
Ventura County, CA –
Citizens for Responsible Oil and Gas (CFROG) has won on all issues raised in legal action stemming from Ventura County’s processing and approval of an oil and gas project, which the court has confirmed violates the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). CFROG filed legal action to protect air quality, public health and safety, and enforce CEQA when it became clear the county put the interests of the oil company ahead of its duty to protect the public and abide by state law.
The Nov. 14 court order, issued by Hon. Glen M. Reiser of Ventura County Superior Court, directs the county to nullify its June 23, 2016, approval of the project and prepare a revised Subsequent Environmental Impact Report (SEIR) “consistent with CEQA requirements.” The order lays bare how procedures in the Ventura County Planning Department for calculating air emissions from oil and gas projects disregard thresholds set in the county’s General Plan and, specifically, the Ojai Valley Area Plan.
Photo: Agnew Lease off of Koenigstein road in Upper Ojai. The operator wanted to add three more wells and asked for permission to drive oil tanker trucks on Koenigstein Road - something it had already been doing for decades in violation of the existing land use permit.
May 2017 -
Legal Action Pending in Ventura County Superior Court.
On July 23, 2016 CFROG filed legal action against Ventura County to enforce the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and ensure air quality of the Ojai Valley is protected, and Ventura County staff are complying with all laws when they process oil and gas project applications. On June 21 the Ventura County Board of Supervisors voted three to two against our appeal and in favor of the project.
Here are a few of the details:
- ISSUE 1 - This project sets 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.
Here is a video prepared by Ventura County staff with a driver who was aware of the video taping. Notice at the end of the video that the truck MUST go into the far, oncoming lane on the BRIDGE in order to make the turn.
- 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.
Mr. John Davis, a resident of Koenigstein Road 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
Location: in the Upper Ojai Valley
- Inconsistent with Ventura County General Plan/Ojai Valley Area Plan
- Air emissions
- unsafe use of road - CLICK HERE TO SEE VIDEO OF INTERSECTION
- CUP Enforcement
- CEQA Compliance
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 -
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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
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.