Residents Appeal Approval of Eleven Oil Wells in Ojai

Marjorie Hernandez, VC Star

Originally published 06:01 p.m., May 7, 2013
Updated 06:24 p.m., May 7, 2013

Residents opposing plans that allow a Santa Paula-based company to operate 11 gas wells in Upper Ojai filed appeals with the county this week.

The two appeals were filed with the Ventura County Planning Department on May 3 and Monday, said Brian Baca, county commercial and industrial section manager. Monday was the last day to file an appeal. Another date will be set when the appellants may state their case to Ventura County Planning Commission members, Baca said.

One appeal was filed by residents who formed a group called Citizens for Responsible Oil and Gas.

“There is a new oil rush happening in Ventura County, and it has to be done with progressive safeguards for the environment,” said John Brooks, a member of the group. “The standards in 1985 were much different, and it is our belief that the environmental impact report must be updated.”

Miranda Petroleum’s proposal, approved by Planning Director Kimberly Prillhart on April 24, is a modification of a conditional-use permit that has been in place since 1985. Under the modified permit, Miranda Petroleum plans to drill on about 320 acres about 1½ miles north of Highway 150 and two miles northwest of Thomas Aquinas College.

The company also would test, drill and maintain nine oil and gas wells and continue to operate two wells on the Harth drilling pad.

The company said it plans to abandon two wells it operates that are accessed from Koenigstein Road.

Brooks said the permit that was approved nearly three decades ago is outdated and violates the California Environmental Quality Act. He said the proposal fails to consider the damage new drilling techniques such as hydraulic fracturing could do to the environment.

Brooks said the group is also concerned about how drilling could affect the water supply in Upper Ojai.

Scott Price, owner and president of Miranda Petroleum, said his company has worked with the county for the past two years to make sure all state and regulations under the conditional-use permit have been met.

Under the proposal, oil and gas facilities off Koenigstein Road that are now operated by Miranda would be abandoned to make way for the nine new wells. Those wells would be just south of the current location and would not affect residents or their private properties, Price said.

Although the permit allows the operation of 11 wells, Price said the company plans to use only two in the immediate future.

Price said the two existing wells operated by his company produce about three barrels a day. The new wells would drill about 8,000 feet, but how much oil they will produce was unknown, he said.

“We fully expected an appeal would be filed,” Price said. “It will go through the process, and I hope the (Planning Commission) will make a judgment that would be best for everyone.”