Community unites in opposition to proposal for former Petrochem site

A broad coalition of 13 organizations has filed a joint appeal of the decision by the Ventura County Planning Director to approve a transportation and contractor services storage yard for the old Petrochem refinery site north of Ventura.

The following organizations have signed onto the appeal filed on Monday, Nov. 18:

Climate First: Replacing Oil and Gas
Environmental Coalition of Ventura County
Food and Water Action
Ventura Citizens for Hillside Preservation
Friends of the Ventura River 
Ventura Land Trust
Wishtoyo Chumash Foundation
California Trout, Inc. 
Sierra Club Los Padres Chapter
Westside Community Council
Showing Up for Racial Justice
Unitarian Universalist Church of Ventura
Central Coast Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE)

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. 

Our group, the Petrochem Appeal Alliance (PAA), believes it is time for this ecologically sensitive area to move from polluting uses of the land to those which contribute to sustainable practices and preservation of this valuable natural area.

We have the following concerns:

• We question what the ultimate use of the site will actually be. The new proposal was defined originally 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 there.

Detailed information must be supplied first in order to do an environmental analysis. Changed without public review, the project description is now broadly aimed at preserving a wide range of development options. The generalities create an obstacle to informed public participation, as well as an informed decision-making process. This lack of specificity is also a violation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

• Even a best-case scenario based on the broad outline provided in the application would violate the 25-pound limit of reactive organic compound (ROC) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions set by the county. These are the principal components of smog which will impact Ventura Avenue and the Ojai Valley.

• The applicant is admitting that flooding will occur on this property. However, the proposed bollards and sediment ponds will not stop flood waters from entering the river habitat. These flood waters will be laden with sediments and other soluble material that could endanger Steelhead Trout in critical habitat designated by National Marine Fisheries Service. Killing Steelhead at any stage of its life cycle is punishable by federal law.

• The project has multiple conflicts with the City of Ventura. Projected claimed parcels are city-owned with railroad right-of-way easements, the project is not in compliance with the 2005 General Plan and does not have a defined plan which will enable the city to supply water to the location.

• 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.

This is a unique area that has the Ventura River Parkway bike trail running through it and a proposal just north of it from the Trust for Public Land for a restoration of native riparian habitat. This site deserves to have its contamination remediated and thoroughly cleaned, and its sensitive river and tributary confluence location celebrated.

A copy of the written appeal document can be found here.