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OP-ED in OVN on Feb. 28, 2020 OPINION PAGE: Ojai City Manager James Vega: City of Ojai response to county General Plan draft: ‘We are experiencing a climate emergency … and county government must do its fair share to deal with it’

2 28 OPINION PAGE

‘We strongly recommend that the Board of Supervisors exercise leadership on behalf of the citizens of the county and take a stand in these matters, and communicate with the county staff in the strongest manner possible the city of Ojai's opposition to what we consider to be the county staff's inappropriate attempt to use administrative maneuvers to subvert policies passed by duly elected officials — your Board of Supervisors.’

 

By James Vega, Ojai city manager

The Ojai City Council is very concerned about air pollution and the effects of climate change on our city and its residents. We are experiencing the drastic effects of climate change, as evidenced by the Thomas Fire, water shortages, and the persistent drought. We have adopted a climate emergency resolution and have created a Climate Emergency Mobilization Committee to make recommendations to council on actions the city can take to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and remove them from the atmosphere.
Accordingly, we are submitting the following comments.
1. In September, the Board of Supervisors approved a number of General Plan policies and programs designed to achieve unincorporated Ventura County's fair share of greenhouse gas emission reductions in line with the state's reduction targets (41.3% reduction of 2015 emissions by 2030, 61.9% reduction by 2040, and 80.4% reduction by 2050). However, in the draft EIR, is the statement " ... the County ... cannot conclude, at this program level of analysis, that future GHG emissions in the county under the 2040 General Plan would be sufficiently reduced to meet the State's 2030 or post-2030 targets."
We find this conclusion to be unacceptable. As proposed, the General Plan has failed to accomplish its own stated objective — achieving the county's fair share of greenhouse gas emission reductions. This must be remedied. We are experiencing a climate emergency in Ventura County and county government must do its fair share to deal with it. General Plan policies should clearly demonstrate that the county will meet or exceed state and county greenhouse gas emission reductions. Failure to make this demonstration is a serious flaw in the draft EIR (environmental impact report) and draft General Plan.
2. One of the major source categories of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions affecting Ojai is the oil and gas industry. Ojai is downwind of many oil and gas sources in both the Ojai Valley and Ventura River Valley.
The Board of Supervisors in September approved two important new policies that are intended to reduce negative impacts of the oil and gas industry, particularly with respect to air pollution, climate change, and other public health and safety impacts:
Policy COS-7. 7: Conveyance for Oil and Produced Water. The County shall require new discretionary oil wells to use pipelines to convey oil and produced water; oil and produced water shall not be trucked
Policy COS-7.8: Gas Collection, Use, and Disposal. The County shall require that gases emitted from all new discretionary oil and gas wells shall be collected and used or removed for sale or proper disposal. Flaring or venting shall only be allowed in cases of emergency or for testing purposes.
With respect to these two policies, staff and their consultant have stated that the two policies would result in an impact (loss of availability of a known petroleum resource that would be of value to the region and residents of the state), and to mitigate that impact staff have proposed to change the two policies (by adding mitigation measures PR-2 and PR-3) so as to allow flaring and trucking of oil and produced water. Incredibly, the proposed mitigation measures would effectively cancel out the two policies adopted by the Board, and would cancel out the benefits of the original policies in reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, and providing other health and safety benefits.
We strongly recommend that mitigation measures PR-2 and PR-3 be rejected and removed from the EIR, and that the original policies COS-7.7 and COS-7.8 adopted by the Board be retained.
3. The greenhouse gas emission inventory in the EIR is flawed, and does not accurately provide an inventory of greenhouse gases in the county. As an example, realistic methane global-warming potential and industrial energy uses were not accurately documented. Comprehensively addressing climate change requires starting with an accurate emission inventory. We recommend that the county contract with the Air Pollution Control District or a qualified outside consultant to produce a more accurate and valid greenhouse gas emission inventory.
In summary, we strongly recommend that the Board of Supervisors exercise leadership on behalf of the citizens of the county and take a stand in these matters, and communicate with the county staff in the strongest manner possible the city of Ojai's opposition to what we consider to be the county staff's inappropriate attempt to use administrative maneuvers to subvert policies passed by duly elected officials — your Board of Supervisors.
Climate Change is upon us. It is time to act aggressively.
Thank you for the opportunity to comment.
— James Vega, Ojai city manager
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