Pictured: The final criminal defendant, Marlene Faltemier, related to the 2014 explosion at Santa Clara Waste Water in Santa Paula has been ordered to pay just over $2.6 million. 

by Kimberly Rivers

New legislation with local impacts

State to study costs of closing all oil drilling infrastructure

Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed legislation that directs the California Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) to come up with a plan for determining the cost associated with closing down all oil and gas infrastructure over which the state has oversight. Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson wrote the bill, SB551, in the wake of California taxpayers being stuck with estimated costs of approximately $230 million related to the plugging and clean up of several facilities when oil companies declared bankruptcy, including 30 wells at Platform Holly and 75 wells (on and offshore) at Rincon Island. Jackson said the bill is about planning ahead, “If we do not know or fully plan for these costs, the public will be more likely to be left unfairly holding the bag for this industry’s mess.”

Ventura County is third, behind Kern and Los Angeles counties, in the state for oil production, with some of the oldest infrastructure. The first commercial wells were active in the 1880s.

Gun violence prevention bills become law

Three new bills Irwin authored following last year’s Borderline shooting have been signed by the governor. AB645 aims to prevent firearm suicides by requiring that information about suicide prevention be included in packaging with guns and at signage at gun sellers, and that it be part of written tests for a firearm safety certificate (currently required for gun purchases). AB339 requires local law enforcement to create written standards and procedures for issuing Gun Violence Restraining Orders (GVRO). AB12 extends the maximum timeframe for a GVRO from one to five years, and makes several other technical changes that make GVROs easier to implement. In addition, a person subject to a gun violence restraining order will be able to submit one written request per year for a hearing to terminate the restraining order, rather than only once during the effective period.

Oxnard’s free tree program eliminates citrus option

The City of Oxnard has received grant funds from the California Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund to provide free fruit trees to Oxnard residents to plant in their front yard. Initially the program included lime, lemon and orange trees, but due to issues related to the Asian citrus psyllid and Huanglongbing (HLB) disease the program was modified.

“We are not planting any citrus through this program,” said Eric Humel, grants specialist with the city of Oxnard. “Due to concerns [with HLB] the city is no longer offering lemon, lime or orange trees as part of this program. We have replaced the citrus options with new additional species.” Residents can select one tree: plum, apple, fig, pomegranate, peach or avocado.

Any resident in Oxnard city limits can apply, but grant funds are specifically designated for communities that have a high exposure to pollution based on a state tool called CalEnviroScreen. Priority neighborhoods are Tierra Vista, Mar Vista, Five Points Northeast, Rose Park, La Colonia and Cabrillo.

Information and applications are available at www.oxnard.org/fruit-tree/. For questions, please contact the Public Works Department at 805-385-8280 or eric.humel@oxnard.org.

Manager at 2014 explosion site ordered to pay $2.6 million

Last week, at a hearing in Ventura County Superior Court, Marlene Faltemier was ordered to pay over $2.6 million in victim restitution for her role in the 2014 Santa Clara Waste Water (SCWW) explosion in Santa Paula. The explosion resulted in several employees and first responders becoming permanently disabled.

An extensive, multiyear investigation by the Ventura County District Attorney led to indictments of company executives, whose combined restitution payments total nearly the same as the amount Faltemier is ordered to pay. At the time of the explosion, she was the human resource manager and took part in a plan to hide chemicals illegally stored at the water treatment and disposal facility.

Faltemier pleaded guilty to all charges, including two felony counts of conspiracy to commit a crime. Booking photo.

The court also sentenced Faltemier to two years in jail, but stayed that order and instead ordered probation for five years. If she is unable to pay the restitution during probation, the order converts to a civil judgement and the victims will have to file action in civil court to receive the funds.

A company called RI-NU LLC has applied to reopen the facility in Santa Paula, and approval of that will “trigger the payment timeline,” according to Dominic Kardum, senior deputy district attorney. Approval will allow SCWW to sell the facility, generating funds to pay the victims.

Environmental Summit on Oct. 21 in Fillmore

A broad coalition of organizations are hosting a free Environmental Summit in Fillmore about potential health impacts related to pollution in the air, water or land.

“Studies show health impacts disproportionately impact low income, Latino population,” said Laura Espinosa, who served as the immediate past district director with the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), District 17. She said the event is “part of the educational effort by LULAC and partner organizations to help organize communities of color and empower them to address policies surrounding their environment.”

Scheduled speakers include Tim O’Connor from the Environmental Defense Fund, Alejandro Dávila from Earthjustice and Adam Vega from Californians for Pesticide Reform.

“One Step youth will speak on local issues, primarily the Sespe Aquifer Exemption, Power Plant win, toxic waste Superfund history,” said Kate English, executive director. Fillmore-based One Step A La Vez is a nonprofit organization whose mission in the Santa Clara River Valley is to provide a “safe environment for 13-19 year olds and prepar[e] informed, empowered youth who are equipped with the tools to lead; cultivate cultural awareness; bridge the gaps of inequality; and advocate for fair, just and healthy individuals and community.”

Other participating groups include: Green Latinos, Santa Paula Latino Town Hall and Corazón Latino. 

The Environmental Summit takes place on Monday, Oct. 21 at 6 p.m. at One Step A La Vez, 421 E. Sespe St., Fillmore. For more information visit: www.onestepalavez.org. 

Retraction: On Oct. 16 VCReporter ran a story that Gov. Newsom had signed AB855 (Irwin) that would have frozen property tax valuations for disaster rebuilds, such as homes that were rebuilt after a fire. That story ran in error. Gov. Newsom vetoed that bill. Corrected Oct. 21, 2019. 3:03 p.m.