May 23, 2103
Kimberly Rivers, OVN correspondent
In a four-to-one vote, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors approved a measure that will create a change in the application for new conditional use permits (C.U.P.) related to oil and gas drilling in Ventura County.
Supervisor Peter Foy cast the only no vote against the measure, brought by Supervisors Steve Bennett and Linda Parks.
New questions will be added to the application, asking whether the operator intends to hydraulically fracture (or “frack”) the wells. If so, the application asks when fracking will occur, what chemicals will be used and how waste fluids will be disposed of.
Bennett indicated that this change will provide planners with necessary information to determine whether the project should be approved.
Hydraulic fracturing is a well completion process that uses water, sand and chemicals injected at high pressures to break apart hard, dense rock formations deep underground to release oil that has been previously unrecoverable.
“I don’t know how anybody can say we shouldn’t ask that question,” said Bennett while introducing the measure.
“It is important to protect our water supply,” said Supervisor John Zaragoza.
Foy, however, countered by saying “We have to be careful that we don’t put so much burden on the industry. I haven’t seen (fracking) done irresponsibly in our state. Other counties haven’t (passed similar measures).” Foy emphasized the economic importance and number of jobs the oil and gas industry brings to the county as part of his basis for not supporting the measure.
The measure also asks the Ventura County counsel to provide information to the Board of Supervisors regarding how the county can have more oversight over “antiquated” C.U.P.s, some of which allow oil companies to drill more wells after getting county approval for minor modifications. It also requests information on what requirements the board can place on water usage.
This approval comes just days before the county’s Planning Commission will hear an appeal filed by Citizens for Responsible Oil and Gas (CFROG). The group has asked for a review of the approval, made by the Planning Director, for Mirada Petroleum to drill nine new wells and rework two existing wells in an oil field behind Thomas Aquinas College between Upper Ojai and Santa Paula. The applicant, Mirada Petroleum’s Scott Price, asked for a minor modification to his permit, which was last modified in 1992. Mirada operates 30 wells in the area.
CFROG members have retained the help of the Environmental Defense Center (EDC), a non-profit environmental law firm, whose work is focused on the central coast. CFROG hopes the county will be required to perform a supplemental environmental review for this project, as it has been decades since any environmental report was done.
Brian Segee, lead attorney with the EDC, was present when the measure passed earlier this week. The action is “well within your police powers (and) your duty as a local agency to protect the health and safety of residents. No one else is doing that,” Segee told the board during the public comment portion of the hearing. “This is not your grandfather’s fracking. (The industry) has married existing technology with horizontal drilling. (This is) different technology, different chemicals and nobody has looked at the environmental impacts,” he said, adding that it is incumbent upon local agencies to do so.
“Nobody is opposed to jobs or oil. (We support) responsible oil development,” said John Brooks, a resident of Oak View and a CFROG founding member. “The next oil boom has to be done in a way where we can save the planet rather than hurt it further. This will help lift the veil of secrecy. It is a baby step and a responsible step.”
“This (measure) is well within your scope of powers. Of course the oil industry is going to dispute that,” said Helen Conly, also a resident of Oak View and founding CFROG member. It is the duty of the supervisors to “take care of the well-being of residents, small business and all industries — not just the oil industry.”
The EDC will represent CFROG at the Planning Commission hearing set for next Thursday at 8:30 a.m. in the Board of Supervisors meeting room, at the Ventura County Government Center. The hearing is open to the public.
Visit www.CFROG.org for more information on CFROG.