by Kimberly Rivers
Federal government opens 28,000 acres for new oil leases
Last week the Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) completed a Resource Management Plan, which includes opening over one million acres of public lands throughout California, including 28,000 acres in Ventura County, to new oil and gas drilling.
“New leases and/or requests for permits to drill and their potential impacts would be addressed at the site or project-specific level in a subsequent tiered environmental analysis,” states the BLM website. The federal government owns the mineral rights that could potentially be sold to oil companies for a minimum of $2 an acre.
Areas in Ventura County impacted by the new plan include parcels between Fillmore and Piru, 136 acres between Lake Casitas and Highway 101 and 240 acres between Ventura and Cañada Larga. Also included are approximately 1,500 acres next to Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge and various parcels in the Ojai Valley, including a parcel owned by the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy. A small area within Point Mugu State Park and the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area is part of the plan along with the three properties of Naval Base Ventura County — the Port of Hueneme, Pt. Mugu Naval Base and all of San Nicholas Island — and parcels in the Cuyama Valley near Frazier Mountain.
Environmental groups challenged the first draft of the plan in court which led to an impact study being conducted. The study did not identify significant impacts from new oil drilling or hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in these areas. Because the BLM made no changes from the initial plan, the process does not allow for any further administrative appeals. Any further opposition to the plan would take place in the courts.
According to a statement issued by Los Padres ForestWatch, one of the groups challenging the plan, they are “working with partners to evaluate next steps.”
Air control district subpeonas oil company
On Oct. 4, 2019, the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District (APCD) Hearing Board issued a subpoena to California Resources Petroleum Corporation (CRPC) to appear at a special hearing set for Nov. 14, 5:30 p.m., at the Ventura County Board of Supervisors Hearing Room, 800 S. Victoria Avenue, Ventura.
The board issued the subpoena in response to district staff’s request in order to determine the reasons CRPC is no longer allowing Carbon California, another oil company, to sell produced gas to Southern California Gas Company through a CRPC pipeline. As a result, Carbon California has had to seek a variance to be able to flare the gas, which would exceed its current APCD permit emissions allowance.
CRPC and Carbon California operate oil and gas leases in the area north of Santa Paula and in the Upper Ojai Valley, and they have an agreement that allows Carbon to move produced gas (extracted with oil) into a CRPC owned pipeline for processing and ultimate sale to Southern California Gas Company.
In a letter to Todd Habliston of Carbon Energy Corp. (which manages Carbon California) dated June 26, 2019, CRPC said they were forced to cut off Carbon’s access to that pipeline because recent work on the pipeline by SoCal Gas “reduced the amount of gas CRPC can deliver into [the] pipeline.” CRPC states that when SoCal Gas is able to accept gas at “full capacity,” Carbon can resume using the pipeline.
APCD staff, in a letter to the hearing board dated Oct. 30, 2019, report that they were told by SoCal Gas that the “distribution pipeline in the Newhall Ranch Area,” which was closed in June, was reopened on Sept. 21, and that in fact, that was the pipeline at issue, requiring CRPC to “shut-in” Carbon’s access to the sales pipeline.
Carbon has two permits from the APCD to operate three gas flares used to burn off excess gas that is not of sufficient quality to go into the sales line. Those flares are in the Timber Canyon, Ojai Fee and Hamp leases. The APCD permit includes maximum flaring amounts, and Carbon has had to apply for a variance to be able to flare more since it can’t use the CRPC pipeline. Those variances expire Nov. 22.
APCD staff asked for the subpoenas to hear from CRPC as the “first hand witness that can explain the reasons that Carbon has shut in” from the pipeline.
Testimony at APCD Hearing Board meetings is given under oath.