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Aera donates $5 million to defeat county Measures A and B

oldpermits WEB YesonAandBcampaign copy

Image provided by VCSAFE

Map from the Ventura County Save Agriculture and Freshwater For Everybody (VCSAFE) showing where antiquated oil and gas permits exist in Ventura County, according to county and state records.

By Kimberly Rivers

, Ojai Valley News reporter

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Aera Energy, LLC, which operates the Ventura Oil Field saddling Highway 33 and the Ventura River in West Ventura, has contributed $5 million to the Stop Measures A and B Political Action Committee, according to campaign finance reports dated March 21, filed with the Ventura County Elections Division.

Measures A and B, which will be on the June 7 primary ballot, ask the voters whether changes to county rules for oil and gas permitting should stand. The changes to the Ventura County Coastal (Measure A) and Non-Coastal (Measure B) zoning ordinances were approved by the Ventura County Board of Supervisors in 2020, following public hearings. 

Supervisors voted to require all new oil and gas drilling in oil fields in Ventura County, governed by antiquated oil permits, to receive modern-day environmental review. 

Antiquated oil permits were granted prior to the passage of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in 1970.

The type of review Measures A and B would require, is already required for new drilling on oil leases governed by post-CEQA permits.

According to the Yes on Measure A and B campaign, based on Ventura County records, 5,253 oil and gas wells in the county are governed by this type of antiquated permit. That includes all well statuses: active, idle, plugged.

In 2020, the Board of Supervisors recognized the problem of antiquated permits in Ventura County, which have no expiration dates and generally no limitations on the number of new wells that can be drilled. The discrepancy between antiquated and more modern permits allows oil companies operating under antiquated permits to add new wells with a simple over-the-counter ministerial approval process, which is similar to the process used for backyard gazebos, fences and marriage licenses.

The changes approved by the supervisors, and supported by “yes” votes on Measures A and B, will result in the same post-CEQA rules to apply to all new drilling operations, whether the lease area is governed by a pre- or post- CEQA permit.

The Stop Measures A and B Political Action Committee, funded primarily by Aera, is the same committee that in 2020 paid signature gatherers across the county to gather petition signatures to require Ventura County government to place the measures on the ballot for a countywide popular vote through the initiative process.

Supporting a “yes” vote on Measures A and B are the county of Ventura, and a coalition of local organizations and individuals, including Food and Water Action, Climate First: Removal of Oil and Gas (CFROG), Patagonia, Supervisor Matt LaVere, Ojai Mayor Betsy Stix, Ventura Mayor Sofia Rubalcava, Ventura County Supervisor Chair Carmen Ramirez, former state Sens. Fran Pavley and Hannah-Beth Jackson, Rep. Salud Carbajal, and Los Padres ForestWatch.

The political action committee in support of Measures A and B is called VCSAFE or Ventura County Save Agriculture and Freshwater For Everybody, with primary funding of $25,000 from Food and Water Action, a national 501c4.

Among the opponents of Measures A and B are VC Defense; Ventura County Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business (COLAB); Tri-Counties Building and Construction Trades Council; Jeff Hargleroad, candidate for Ventura County clerk-recorder; Richard Atmore, local rancher; Rainbow Bridge; and Ventura County Taxpayers Association.

Aera is a company jointly owned by Shell plc, and Exxon Mobil, and is headquartered in Bakersfield. The Western States Petroleum Association, an industry lobbying association, has also contributed to the “no” on Measures A and B committee.

 

 

 

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