Ventura County approves 3 new oil and gas wells on Oxnard Plain - on a Zoning Clearance.
No Public Review
No Environmental Impact Study
On Feb. 27 the Ventura County Planning Department approved the drilling of three new oil and gas wells on the Oxnard Plain on Wooley Road.
Red dots show current active wells near where new wells will be drilled. From Division of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources (DOGGR)
The wells were approved through a “zoning clearance” process that does not require any public notice or environmental impact review because the old land use permit has no expiration date and no limit on the number of wells that can be drilled, and Ventura County takes the position that the operator is therefore entitled to add wells without review – no cumulative impact review and no air emission impact review. In fact, prior to CFROG, zoning clearances were not posted online at all so there was no way for any member of the public to be aware that an application had been submitted, was being considered or had been approved. Today, the county posts a list of recently approved zoning clearances in their “public portal” and has a list of pending zoning clearance applications.
The zoning clearance process is part of a “ministerial” action. Ministerial means that if the applicant meets certain requirements, the county MUST approve the project. Other projects that are processed in this way include many residential home expansions, building a replacement barn that was burned in the Thomas Fire, pet shade structures and backyard gazebos.
The old land use permit was granted decades ago before oversight agencies realized the problem, and started putting expiration dates on permits. Expiration dates provide a reasonable opportunity for the agency and the public to review and comment on the permit, and for the applicant to apply to modify the permit – this “permit modification” then becomes a “discretionary” project. In contrast to a ministerial project, a discretionary project is just as it sounds – it gives the agency, in this case county planning – the discretion to approve or deny the project. The county must still show a reason for denial of a discretionary project, but there is more leeway, and environmental review is required in many cases.
The wells between Wooley Road and Rice Avenue will be drilled near 18 active and idle oil wells surrounded by row crops, after the applicant receives a “Permit to Drill” from the state.
STAY TUNED because the county is currently considering a much larger project on a Zoning Clearance - 79 new wells for dirty tar sands extraction, also in the Oxnard Plain.