by Kimberly Rivers

Zaragoza announces bid for mayor

Current Ventura County Supervisor John Zaragoza, in a statement dated Nov. 6, 2019, announced his candidacy for mayor for the city of Oxnard. He is termed out of his supervisor seat and said he wants to “continue serving the residents of Oxnard.”

Wrongful death case filed in Ojai crosswalk fatality

The city of Ojai, California Department of Transportation and Ventura County are all named in a wrongful death suit filed on Oct. 21, 2019, in Ventura County Superior Court, related to the death of Edith Rubaloff of Ojai.

On Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019, Rubaloff was crossing Highway 33 in the Valerio Avenue crosswalk when she was struck by a car driven by Esther Holland, who is also named in the suit. Rubaloff died a short time later.

For over three years, residents and city council members had been asking staff to press the State of California to authorize plans to make all of the crosswalks along that stretch of highway safer. The improvements occurred after Rubaloff’s death.

Stephen K. McElroy of the Beverly Hills-based law firm Carpenter, Zuckerman and Rowley is the attorney of record for the plaintiffs, Rubaloff’s husband, Wayne “Jay” Stewart, and son and daughter-in-law, John and Susan Manning.

County extends oil drilling moratorium for one year

On Nov. 5, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to extend a moratorium on new drilling, and re-drills of existing wells, in an area of the Oxnard Plain overlying the Fox Canyon Groundwater Basin.

The moratorium is in response to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) finding methane gas in water wells in the vicinity of active oil and gas extraction. According to Leroy Smith, Ventura County Counsel, the action is needed due to a pending application from Peak Operator LLC for over 65 new cyclic steam oil wells to extract tar sands from underneath the Oxnard Plain. USGS researchers with the project previously said they are conducting further research to determine the source of the methane gas, which is coming either from the deep formations containing the oil and gas underground (with methane migrating up naturally into the aquifer) or from the drilled wells, which may be creating a second possible pathway.

Oil drilling permit nullification hearing on Nov. 14

On Thursday, Nov. 14, at 8:30 a.m., the Ventura County Planning Commission will hear the appeal filed by Peak Operator LLC., an oil company, in response to a permit nullification issued by the Ventura County Planning Department.

The permit, called a zoning clearance, was issued in 2012 and governs oil extraction activities at the site along Sturgis Road in Oxnard, south of the Camarillo Airport.

In the nullification notice dated April 22, 2019, the Ventura County Planning Department cites a “vast discrepancy” between the existing facilities and what is allowed in the permit, and names Peak’s “intentional deviation” from the permit conditions as a reason for the nullification.

Peak filed an appeal stating that the nullification was “issued in error and factually without merit,” pointing to the fact that all facilities were permitted by the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District (APCD) and the facilities they installed that are not described in the zoning clearance were required as part of “production startup at minimal capital outlay,” and were needed to ensure Peak weathered “bad economic conditions and low oil prices.”

Robert Bell, president and drilling manager of Peak, declined to comment.

CSUCI getting microscope for microplastics

As part of a project called “Expanding Capabilities to Characterize, Track and Reduce Pollutants via Next-Generation Microscope-Based FTIR,” Dr. Sean Anderson, Ph.D., professor of Environmental Science and Resource Management at California State University, Channel Islands, has received a U.S. Army grant of $149,036 to purchase a sophisticated microscope.

The microscope uses Fourier-Transform InfraRed spectroscopy (FTIR) and incorporates brand new miniature capabilities, explained Anderson. A computer runs the 3 ft. by 4 ft. microscope that is can also be found in FBI or engineering labs.

“That means CSUCI is getting a cutting-edge microscope that can shoot a beam of infrared light at a particle of microplastic and get what amounts to its chemical fingerprint,” said Anderson. “This will allow us to fingerprint items thinner than a human hair.”

Anderson said the scope can even tell the type of plastic and the source, “Is it plastic used for shoe rubber or elastic used in underwear bands? We can track the contaminants in sand crabs and where they came from. It’s Environmental CSI.”