New oil and gas projects to now get county review

web pvh Santa Paula Canyon oil rig
Ojai Valley News photo by Perry Van Houten
An oil well in Santa Paula Canyon, behind Thomas Aquinas College.

Perry Van Houten, Ojai Valley News senior reporter
The Ventura County Board of Supervisors has updated the county’s oil drilling ordinances for new wells operating under “antiquated permits,” some issued up to 75 years ago.
On a 3-2 vote, supervisors adopted the proposed zoning ordinance amendments that require new wells drilled or fracked under the antiquated conditional use permits to be subject to greater transparency, and undergo new environmental review.
In 2019, the board directed county staff to update oil drilling ordinances and, in July, the Ventura County Planning Commission approved the new rules to better protect public health, the water supply and the environment.


Some wells are in or next to Los Padres National Forest, while others are in close proximity to drinking water supplies.
The changes adopted by the county on Tuesday will establish a single, consistent process for permitting new oil and gas developments, regardless of the age of the original underlying permit, according to Ventura County Planning Director Dave Ward.
With most antiquated permits, there are no restrictions on the number of wells that can be drilled, no expiration date and no stipulation on what extraction methods can be used.
In the past, all an oil company with an antiquated permit had to do to drill a new well was submit to the county an application and permit fee. There was no discretionary review.
Under the update, all new oil development permitting will be subject to discretionary review for compliance with modern standards for health, safety and the environment.
The rule changes were lauded by conservation groups but opposed by the oil and gas industry, which argued the antiquated permits entitle them to do on their property as they please.
Supervisors Bob Huber and Kelly Long voted against the proposal.
Part of the proposal would have used fees to pay for a full-time position in the Ventura County Planning Division to support the rules changes, at no cost to the county. That part of the measure failed because it required a 4-1 vote to pass.


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