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News

Board of Supervisors defends General Plan limiting oil and gas

web Screen Shot 2021 10 08 at 10.40.13 AM

Photo via screenshot from the BOS meeting. 

Supervisor Long during the Board of Supervisors meeting discussing proposal to spend more money to fund lawsuits against the county by 11 oil and gas companies. 

 

Grant Phillips, Ojai Valley News reporter

The Ventura County Board of Supervisors voted to add another $1,058,000 to fund 11 ongoing litigation challenges related to rules on oil and natural gas development. The decision brought public funding to more than $2 million to defend the county against the lawsuits.

 

“This is not the county out suing 11 groups of people, this is us being sued,” said Supervisor Matt LaVere. “Two million dollars is a lot of money, but not funding this, we would effectively be forfeiting these lawsuits being brought against us.”

The cases came after the Board of Supervisors adopted the 2040 General Plan, which several oil and gas interests claimed did not comply with a variety of state laws related to planning, environmental reviews, and open meetings.

The General Plan addressed environmental and public health policies, which resulted in a 2,500-foot setback between new wells and schools as well as a 1,500- foot buffer between new wells and homes in the unincorporated areas. The plan also addressed limitations on flaring of gases and the recommendation of transportation of oil by truck as opposed to by pipeline.

“Making sure that we protect the public health has to be our No. 1 goal,” said Supervisor Linda Parks. “There are a lot of benefits in our General Plan and it should not be negotiated outside of the public realm.”

The ongoing lawsuits seek to annul the board’s approval of the General Plan, as well as its environmental review. The lawsuits have been bifurcated, and will address the California Environmental Quality Act planning law claims first.

While a majority of three yes votes was enough to approve the additional funding for the lawsuits, the board needed four votes of approval to authorize an associated budget transaction. Supervisor Kelly Long joined Supervisors Matt LaVere, Linda Parks and Carmen Ramirez to approve the transaction after they agreed to two proposed modifications, including settlement talks with plaintiffs within a reasonable time. Long originally cast a dissenting vote last year on the General Plan and environmental review, stating at the Oct. 5 meeting concerns related to the cost and risk to the taxpayers.

“I think it’s absurd to suggest that we would just lay down like that,” said Supervisor LaVere. “I think we have a duty to defend ourselves and unfortunately, this is the cost of doing that and I’ll support that.”

 

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