For Immediate Release: Feb. 3, 2021
Contact: Jessica Gable, (202) 683-2478, [email protected]
Rebecca August, (805) 770-8692, [email protected]
Liz Beall, (805) 794-0282, [email protected]
After Industry Disinformation Campaign, Ventura County Forced to Send Oil and Gas Regulations to Ballot in 2022
Ventura County risks losing environmental gains to oil and gas industry
Ventura, CA -- After seemingly running an extensive disinformation campaign and spending close to a million dollars on contracted canvassers, the oil and gas industry succeeded in collecting enough signatures to pause Ventura County’s newly-won oil and gas regulations, and send them to the ballot instead. The Board of Supervisors certified the signatures yesterday, signaling the start of a new battle for the county’s frontline communities and natural resources.
Some Board members echoed the public's concern over deceitful tactics used during the signature gathering, but it will be up to the District Attorney to investigate reports of false information distributed by the hired signature gatherers of the oil and gas companies.
“Frontline communities are the people who will be hurt most by this pause in protections from oil and gas pollution,” said Food & Water Watch Senior Organizer Tomás Rebecchi in response to the ruling. “The oil and gas industry’s gross misuse of the petition process affirms its willingness to manipulate and deceive to preserve its bottom line. How much longer can we leave our most vulnerable communities to pay for the profits of the oil and gas industry?”
In the 2022 statewide primary election, voters will decide whether to close a loophole that allows oil and gas companies using antiquated permits to avoid public oversight and modern environmental review to drill or frack new wells. Until then, the loophole will remain open in Ventura County.
“What the County did last year was close a loophole that allowed some oil companies to skirt modern laws that protect public health, precious water supplies, our public lands, and the environment,” said ForestWatch’s director of advocacy Rebecca August. “The update simply made all new oil development and operations subject to the same rules that other businesses in Ventura County must follow. You can see why the oil industry is fighting it.”
Most antiquated permits have no limit on the number of wells that can be drilled, no expiration date, and do not stipulate what extraction techniques can be used. To drill or frack new wells under these permits, the oil company pays a $330 application fee and obtains an over-the-counter Zoning Clearance without public notice or environmental review -- much like a gazebo or air conditioning unit.
“The threat posed by antiquated permits is already well-documented. Oil operators on these permits are responsible for numerous health and safety violations. It was an antiquated permit that led to one of Ventura County’s biggest toxic spills. Oxnard farmers discovered diluent – a toxic additive used to thin out oil sludge – floating in their broccoli crops. The farmers reported the spill. The oil company, protected by an antiquated permit, didn’t report anything until they got caught. And that spill? It still hasn’t been cleaned up.” said Liz Beall, Executive Director of Climate First: Replacing Oil & Gas (CFROG) an environmental watchdog in Ventura County. “Voters are going to have to decide in June of 2022 – should we hold oil companies accountable for poisoning our air, land, and water? Or are we going to let their deep pockets make the rules, and tolerate more of the same?”
November 10, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Rebecca August, Director of Advocacy, Los Padres ForestWatch [email protected] 805 770-8692
Liz Beall, Executive Director, Climate First: Replacing Oil & Gas [email protected] 805-794-0282
Tomás Morales Rebecchi, Central Coast Organizing Manager, Food & Water Watch/Food &
Water Action [email protected] (805) 507-5083
Ventura County Tightens Outdated Oil Permitting to Better Protect Public Health, Water Supplies, and the Environment
Ventura, CA — Today the Ventura County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to update the County’s Zoning Ordinances for oil and gas wells operating under antiquated Conditional Use Permits. Thousands of oil wells in Ventura County operate under “antiquated permits” that were issued up to 75 years ago—before environmental and human health impacts were known, and long before bedrock environmental laws existed. Many of these wells are located within or adjacent to the Los Padres National Forest. Others are dangerously close to drinking water supplies and communities like Ventura, Oxnard, and Fillmore.
Hundreds of community members and environmental and climate justice organizations sent letters and called in to speak at the hearing in support of updated oil permitting to better protect the health and safety of the community, the climate, and public lands.
“What the County essentially did was close a loophole that allowed some oil companies to skirt modern laws that protect public health, precious water supplies, our public lands, and the environment,” said ForestWatch’s director of advocacy Rebecca August. “Now all new oil development and operations will be subject to the same rules that other businesses in Ventura County must follow.”
Last fall, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors directed County staff to update oil drilling ordinances so that new wells drilled or fracked under these antiquated permits would be subject to greater transparency and environmental review. Over the summer, the Planning Commission recommended rule changes that would immediately require all new and expanded oil extraction activities in Ventura County to be reviewed carefully for compliance with modern health, safety, and environmental standards.
“Antiquated permits never expire. They allow for indefinite expansion without regulation. So long as they were allowed, they made Ventura County’s modern oil and gas regulations essentially meaningless.” Said Liz Beall, Executive Director at CFROG. “Today, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors told oil operators that they have to play by the same rules as everyone else – by simply requiring that new drilling and expansion follow modern health and safety standards.”
Under current rules governing antiquated permits, an oil company only needs to submit a short application along with a $330 permit fee to receive a “zoning clearance” to drill or frack a well in Ventura County. A zoning clearance process is considered ministerial, in that if the applicant checks all the boxes and pays the fee, the county must approve it, no discretion is allowed. Other ministerial actions include marriage licenses and backyard gazebos.
Most antiquated permits have no limit on the number of wells that can be drilled, have no expiration date, and do not stipulate what extraction techniques can be used. Under antiquated permits, new wells are approved without public notice or hearing and have never undergone environmental review.
"The oil company that benefited most from these antiquated permits and the biggest driller in our county is AERA Energy,” said Food and Water Watch central coast organizing manager Tomás Morales Rebecchi. “This is also one of the operators Ventura County should be worried most about when it comes to leaving a legacy of toxic oil wells that will need tax payers dollars to clean up. Aera Energy has only set aside $80.29 per oil well for clean up, the least amount of any oil company in California, when the average cost of clean up is $68,000 and may be much higher. We are glad AERA will no longer have the ability to drill as many wells as they want with no environmental review, when they are not even setting aside the responsible amount needed to clean up their current wells."
This update will subject all new oil development permitting to discretionary review and will only apply to new wells. A wide range of land uses in Ventura County are currently permitted through discretionary review, including wineries, day care centers, bed and breakfasts, schools, renewable energy production, film production, camps, and campgrounds. Discretionary review of these permit applications simply ensures that all current health, safety, and environmental requirements are met.
Environmental groups including CFROG, Food and Water Action, Sierra Club, and ForestWatch have been raising concerns about these loopholes for years and feel gratified by the final vote. And a coalition of twenty environmental and labor groups came together to urge the Board of Supervisors to adopt these new permitting requirements, including LULAC de Camarillo, 350.org, Central Coast Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE), and the Social Justice Fund for Ventura County.
“We applaud the board for protecting Ventura County from the harmful impacts that dangerously under-regulated oil development would have on public health, precious water resources, public lands, and the environment,” said August.
“One of the oldest wells in the United States was drilled in 1864. It is in Ojai, within a few feet of San Antonio Creek. The antiquated permits handed out to oil operators prior to 1960 are exactly that – antiquated. They were issued prior to our modern understanding of the hazards of petroleum production, and prior to the development of science-backed health and safety standards. They pre-date the existence of the Environmental Protection Agency.” Said Liz Beall, CFROG’s Executive Director, “Today the Ventura County Board of Supervisors exercised common sense in asking oil operators to bring all new operations up to contemporary standards. It is a great day for the health, safety, and welfare of our communities.”
The board failed to achieve the 4-1 vote necessary to pass part of the measure that would have funded the establishment of one regular full-time position in the planning division to support the ordinance changes. The position would be paid for by fees at no cost to the county. Both Supervisors Long and Huber voted against the proposal. Without the additional staff member, applicant waiting times would likely increase as current staff juggles the additional workload. Consideration of the staffing issue will be taken up at the next meeting of the board as a separate item.
# # #
Los Padres ForestWatch protects wildlife, wilderness, water, and sustainable access throughout the Los Padres National Forest and the Carrizo Plain National Monument. We achieve this through education, advocacy, and when necessary, legal action for the benefit of our communities, climate, and future generations.
CFROG is a climate watchdog, dedicated to combating the climate crisis by working to shape the transition from fossil fuels to a carbon-free economy on California's Central Coast.
Food & Water Action is the political advocacy arm of the research and education organization Food & Water Watch. We mobilize people to build political power to move bold and uncompromised solutions to the most pressing food, water and climate problems of our time.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE– Monday, September 28th2020
Climate First: Replacing Oil & Gas (CFROG)
CFROG Announces New Executive Director
Ventura, CA –The Climate First: Replacing Oil & Gas (CFROG) Board of Directors announced today that Liz Beall has been selected to serve as CFROG’s new Executive Director, effective this Thursday, October 1st, 2020. “CFROG’s Board is excited to welcome Liz Beall as our new Executive Director.” said John Brooks, President of CFROG’s Board. “Liz is an outspoken advocate for environmental justice and has the vision, perseverance, and knowledge needed to achieve CFROG’s goals.”
Liz has a strong track record of nonprofit leadership and has dedicated her career to championing environmental sustainability. She is the founder of two Bay Area nonprofits: Full Circle Farm, an 11-acre educational farm on a public middle school campus, and Wild Child, a wilderness-based environmental education program. As the former Interim Executive Director for Green Foothills, Liz oversaw a local environmental advocacy group responsible for significant victories for Bay Area open space preservation. She has also served as a nonprofit consultant for over a decade, helping numerous nonprofits, including Latino Outdoors, FIRST 5 Santa Clara County, The Living Classroom, and The Children & Nature Network develop robust new programs and communications strategies. She is a founding member of the Bay Area Children & Nature Collaborative and the Santa Clara County Food System Alliance.
Liz moved to Ventura County in 2018. She embodies the values that drive CFROG’s mission to combat the climate crisis locally by working to shape the transition from fossil fuels to a carbon-free economy in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties. In her own words:
“As a passionate advocate for a sustainable future, I am incredibly excited to help CFROG continue to expand its horizons – both programmatically and geographically – and make a positive and lasting impact on the future of the Central Coast. Amidst the COVID crisis and climate-change driven wildfires, climate activism has taken on a new sense of urgency. In joining CFROG, I feel a renewed sense of purpose. Urgency and purpose, joined together, is what it will take to tackle the most urgent issue of our time: To end the vicious cycle of fossil fuel dependency and contamination of our air, soil, and water.” (her full letter can be read on the following page)
Liz holds her M.Sc. in medical anthropology from Oxford University, and her Bachelors’ from San Jose State University. A gifted storyteller, she is also a graduate of UCLA’s School of Theatre, Film, and Television. She, her husband John, and their two daughters live in Oxnard.
* * *
A Message from CFROG’S New Executive Director
September 28, 2020
Dear Friends and Supporters,
I moved to Ventura County just over two years ago, but have lived in California for most of my adult life. For me, this isn’t just a job. Since the day we moved to Oxnard from the Bay Area, I have been continuously amazed by how lucky I am to live here. From its sweeping coastlines to its vibrant cities, the Central Coast is a beautiful place to live. But if we want to it to stay that way, there is a lot of work to be done. We are seeing first-hand the rapid environmental degradation and growing social inequalities driven by climate change, and it needs to be stopped – quickly and definitively.
As a passionate advocate for a sustainable future, I am incredibly excited to help CFROG continue to expand its horizons – both programmatically and geographically – and make a positive and lasting impact on the future of the Central Coast. Amidst the COVID crisis and climate-change driven wildfires, climate activism has taken on a new sense of urgency. In joining CFROG, I feel a renewed sense of purpose. Urgency and purpose, joined together, is what it will take to tackle the most urgent issue of our time: To end the vicious cycle of fossil fuel dependency and contamination of our air, soil, and water. As a parent and as an activist, I can’t think of a more important use of my time and talents.
I also recognize that I am standing on the shoulders of giants. CFROG’s founders, board, and staff have done incredible work advocating for a fossil fuel-free future. From Ventura County recently adopting a new General Plan with the most health-conscious oil and gas setbacks in the state, to the moratorium on new drilling in the Oxnard plain, CFROG’s advocacy has brought a long list of hard-won victories. These strides have helped put Ventura County on the right track towards a more sustainable future. The collective talent and skills of the CFROG team are awe-inspiring. I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from this impassioned group of activists as we continue to serve as the Central Coast’s oil and gas watchdog and advocate for a transition to a new, sustainable green economy.
I am honored to become CFROG’s new Executive Director. My work is motivated by a deep desire to heal our relationship to the natural world and one another. I hope that I can help CFROG’s strong ethic of vocal and effective environmental activism flourish in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties. More than anything, leading CFROG represents an opportunity to bring stewardship of our region’s environmental resources to the forefront of our public conversation. I am deeply impassioned to do this work.
And remember, CFROG needs the continued support of our community more than ever during these unprecedented times. Help us move forward into this urgent new chapter!
Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019
County shuts down oil operator drilling in tar sands between Oxnard and Camarillo
In a firm rebuke to an oil company working the tar sands in the Oxnard Plain, the Ventura County Planning Commission on Thursday upheld staff recommendations that the permitting for the site be nullified following the discovery of multiple and serious violations.
PEAK Operator LLC was cited for the following:
• Unpermitted structures and construction including tanks, equipment and other storage and processing facilities.
• Wells drilled in unapproved locations and a drill site three times larger than permitted.
• Natural gas flaring in an unapproved area.
• Structures placed too close to the road, including oil storage tanks.
• Building and Safety Department issues including tank foundation anchorage and oil pumping equipment operating without safety review.
• Environmental Health Division issues involving potable water and septic tanks.
• Finally, 10 of the new oil wells were sited within a 100-year floodplain, requiring review and permitting that was not approved by Public Works.
The violations were found by county staff in April following a request by PEAK to drill 79 more wells using the risky cyclic steam method of drilling. This is the same general area where U.S. Geological Survey scientists found petroleum-related gases in the Fox Canyon Aquifer, prompting the Ventura County Board of Supervisors to issue a moratorium on new cyclic steam oil drilling there. This source supplies water to 700,000 customers in Ventura, Oxnard, Port Hueneme, Camarillo, Moorpark and unincorporated Ventura County.
Climate First: Replacing Oil & Gas (CFROG) applauds the proactive work by the county to identify the multiple problems at this site and protect the health and safety of residents. We are very concerned when an operator who doesn’t follow the rules is drilling in the shallow tar sands near our aquifer.
Planning Commissioners in their comments expressed concerns about the need to look at the environmental impacts of drilling, especially near water sources. The vote was 4-0, with one commissioner absent.
November 7, 2019
Proposal for former Petrochem site north of Ventura wrong for our community
A long-standing concern for Climate First: Replacing Oil & Gas has been the issue of what to do with land which has been contaminated with the remnants of oil and gas infrastructure. It’s a problem we will need to tackle as we transition away from fossil fuels.
Thus we have taken an active role in advocating for an appropriate use for the now abandoned Petrochem site just north of Ventura. From its inception in the 1950s as a fertilizer manufacturer, to a later use as a refinery for crude oil which processed 20,000 barrels a day and stored hundreds of thousands more in tanks, the property has been controversial.
CFROG is encouraged when we see projects like Cenergy’s proposal for a solar farm on a former Superfund site near Fillmore. The area was once home to a Texaco refinery. We also applaud a proposal just north of the Petrochem site by the Trust for Public Land for a restoration of native riparian habitat.
The decision on Wednesday from Ventura County Planning Director Dave Ward to adopt the Mitigated Negative Declaration prepared for the latest proposal for the site, an auto and contractor equipment storage yard, was disappointing and we are weighing a possible joint appeal to the Planning Commission with other groups.
Not only is this a site of questionable environmental safety but it has the compounding problem of its location in a floodplain in the delicate ecosystem of the Ventura River.
We have the following concerns:
• We question what the ultimate use of the site will actually be. The new proposal was originally touted by the owner’s land-use consulting firm as the potential site for new cars shipped in from the Port of Hueneme to be stored and prepped. But officials from the port attended the Planning Director hearing to also protest the new use and relayed that they had surveyed all their auto customers and not one had expressed interest in storing cars at this remote and controversial site.
• Emissions from the new vehicle trips proposed would lead straight into the sensitive Ojai Valley, which has its own strict rules for pollution sources due to the unique geological vulnerability of the area.
• It is located just over a mile away from an area listed by CalEnviro Screen as an Environmental Justice Community, already overburdened by pollution. The largest oil field in the county also surrounds the site.
We believe it is time for the ecologically sensitive area north of Ventura to move from polluting uses of the land to those which contribute to sustainable practices and preservation of this valuable natural area.
January 10, 2017 - Un-permitted exploding oil storage tank puts water at risk
State Water Board Investigates Impact to Water from exploding oil tank
Oil tank that exploded in Upper Ojai was un-permitted.
Upper Ojai, CA – An un-permitted crude oil tank that exploded in Upper Ojai on Aug. 5, 2016 caused a discharge of crude oil and water, which may have impacted nearby surface and/or groundwater sources, including Sisar Creek. The operator, Silver Exploration Company (Silver X), failed to obtain the proper permits from the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District (VCAPCD) prior to installing the tank.
“The Regional Board is concerned that the water quality in the area may have been impacted or potentially impacted by the unauthorized release. The tank explosion has caused petroleum and Buckeye Platinum residue to be deposited where it may impact groundwater or Sisar Creek, a water of the State,” states the Investigative Order dated Jan. 9 issued by the Water Board. The Water Board is the “public agency with primary responsibility for the protection of ground and surface water quality within the major portions of Los Angeles and Ventura Counties.”
“This investigative order and report show an oil and gas operator cutting corners and that's why the public needs our local agencies to be vigilant in protecting our water,” said Kimberly Rivers, Executive Director of CFROG. “What good are laws and clean up requirements if they are not fully enforced? The report reveals the exploding tank had no permit, Best Management Practices were not being used and the tank did not have a sensor that could have prevented the explosion. We hope our regulators wake up and see what many neighborhoods have known for decades, that some oil and gas operators don't follow the rules.”
On Aug. 5, 2016 in Upper Ojai an un-permitted crude oil storage tank exploded, and according to the California State Water Resources Control board the explosion led to a discharge of oil and water that may have impacted groundwater and surface water in the area, including Sisar Creek.
September 23, 2016 - Senator Fran Pavley to be recognized at CFROG event as Environmental Watchdog
On Friday, September 30 at the Rhythm & Soul for CFROG fundraising event Senator Fran Pavley (Dist. 27) will be recognized as the CFROG 2016 Environmental Watchdog. She is terming out of office after 16 years of service in the State Assembly and Senate.
August 30, 2016 - VC Air Pollution Control Hearing Board Puts Crimson on Notice to Expect Subpoena
August 29, 2016 - the Ventura County Air Pollution Control Hearing Board voted unanimously to issue a subpoena to Crimson Pipeline requiring them to report why their pipelines have been shut down - if they are not turned back on prior to the next meeting in November. Pipelines in the South Mountain area - Santa Paula, Fillmore, Piru, Moorpark - were shut down for "unschedule maintenance." The oil company has had to seek a variance in order to allow trucking of oil because the pipelines are shut down.
"The APCD hearing board deserves praise for asking serious and informed questions and for the rare and important step of voting unanimously to force the pipeline company to answer questions about why the Santa Paula area pipelines are shut down," said John Brooks, President of CFROG. "Until they are operating again the pollution from up to 20 tanker trucks per day will spew into our air."
June 24, 2016 - County was warned about old pipelines - Hall Canyon Oil Spill
On June 23 a pipeline leak caused tens of thousands of gallons to flow into a creek bed from the Ventura hillsides. This is light crude and highly flammable.
"The crude oil originating in the Aera Energy LLC Ventura Oil Field is light and highly volatile. This spill could have been a major fire had it ignited. This is all the more reason for greater public awareness of the hazardous high-pressure pipeline below the City of Ventura." - Anneliese Anderle, CFROG Advisory Board Members, Petroleum Engineer and retired Senior Engineer for California Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources.
June 14, 2016 - CFROG working to protect and strengthen environmental protections of the Ojai Valley Area Plan
General Plan Update comes to Oak View
Monday, July 18, at 7 p.m., the Ventura County Planning Department will host a workshop at the Oak View Community Center, 18 Valley Road, Oak View, to receive input from Ojai Valley residents regarding changes to the Ventura County General Plan. Citizens for Responsible Oil and Gas (CFROG) is participating in the General Plan update process to preserve and strengthen the Ojai Valley Area Plan to ensure all oil and gas projects are approved with strong publichealth, safety and environmental protections. These efforts will have an ongoing impact across the county for oil and gas projects over the next 20 years – the life of the General Plan.
June 22, 2016 - County sets dangerous new precedent- says oil tanker trucks can make illegal turns.
On June 21 in a three to two vote the Ventura County Board of Supervisors approved an oil project in Upper Ojai that includes allowing oil tanker trucks to use a dangerous intersection and violates the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
Quotes from CFROG on issues in this appeal -
"The planning staff was trying to change a major safety rule without proof that the risk is gone,” said John Brooks, President of CFROG and Oak View resident. “Thanks to CFROG's appeal, the Board of Supervisors that banned large oil tankers in 1980 for safety, will get a another chance to show that it cares more about protecting drivers on Highway 150 than the profits of a rule breaking oil company."
"The Ojai Valley remains vulnerable to unhealthful air pollution and smog due to topographic features of steep valley walls and air flow patterns,” said Dr. Steve Colome’, an Ojai resident and CFROG Advisory Board member. “To properly evaluate the air pollution potential of projects, Ventura County should not be using circular and convoluted logic to ignore actual emissions."Colome holds a molecular biology degree from Stanford University and a Doctorate of Science from Harvard University. He has served for a decade on the South Coast Air Quality Management District and served on the faculties of UC Los Angeles and UC Irvine.
May 11, 2016 - Bentley Well Project Needs Abandonment Plan
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