Pictured: Anterra Energy on Wooley Road, Oxnard. April 20, 2013 Google Earth Image. 

by Kimberly Rivers

kimberly@vcreporter.com

Alleged workplace harassment at oil company

On Dec. 14 a lawsuit alleging racial workplace harassment was filed in Ventura County Superior Court against Carbon California, a Santa Paula-based oil and gas company, its parent company Carbon Energy Corp. and employee Ray Price, an oil field manager working in Ventura County. 

The complaint filed on behalf of Rodolfo “Rudy” Ramirez includes four allegations of violations of the Federal Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Those alleged violations include race discrimination, harassment based on race, failure to maintain a workplace free from discrimination or retaliation, and retaliation. The complaint also includes a claim of wrongful termination as Ramirez, according to the complaint, was terminated on Oct. 29, 2020 after he filed a report with the company about the illegal conduct of Price and others on Oct. 7. 

Price is the brother of Carbon’s operations manager, Scott Price, a Santa Paula resident and longtime oil and gas operator in Ventura County. 

The instances leading to the legal action began after Ramirez was promoted to supervisor in July 2020. According to the court filing, Ray Price made racial comments to Ramirez denigrating his ability such as, “You only got the job because you’re a Mexican.” The suit alleges also that other employees and supervisors would send group texts to “humiliate and undermine” Ramirez. 

Ramirez reported these incidents, but they continued in what he described as a retaliatory manner, including suspending him without pay. He was ultimately fired. The legal filing states that Ramirez never received a negative job evaluation or any other professional reprimand in his employee file. 

In another incident reported in the lawsuit, Price brought a gun target to the workplace that depicted “a cartoonish African American male with the words ‘Official Running [N-word] Target’ on it.” The suit alleges that the human resources officer and Scott Price were aware of these and other incidents.  

The filing states that Ramirez worked for Carbon from April 2019 to October 2020 as an oil field supervisor. When he was terminated, he was asked to “release all of his legal claims in exchange for $10,000.” 

The case is assigned to Dept. 21 and the plaintiff has requested a jury trial. 

Ramirez is represented by the Long Beach-based law firm of Perona, Langer, Beck, Serbin and Harrison. 

Officials with Carbon did not respond to requests for comment by press deadline. 

The complaint filed on behalf of Ramirez: Ramirez vs. Carbon Energy

State says Anterra missed deadline, then says no deadline exists

Calling a statement in November 2020 a “miscommunication,” a spokesperson with the state’s oil and gas regulatory office is now saying Anterra Energy Services did not have to complete plugging and abandonment operations at the two injection disposal wells it operated at the company’s Class II commercial oil field waste disposal site on Wooley Road in Oxnard, by a previously stated deadline. 

In what appear to be inconsistent responses, all made via email, the spokesperson for the state’s oil and gas regulatory office first said Anterra had to complete plugging and abandoning its two injection disposal wells by Dec. 19, 2020. On Jan. 12, 2021, the same person said that no such deadline existed. Then on the morning of Jan. 14, that person clarified the situation, saying  that the agency “regret[s] the miscommunication in November.” 

Anterra Energy on Wooley Road, Google Earth Image, Jan. 12, 2021.

Responding via email to an inquiry from the Ventura County Reporter on Nov. 23, 2020, Don Drysdale with the public affairs office at the California Department of Conservation, which includes the Geologic Management Energy Division (CalGEM),  the state’s oil and gas regulatory office, said CalGEM issued permits to Anterra on June 22, 2020, “to plug and abandon the wells…after the wells failed required testing.”

Drysdale said that typically plug and abandonment permits are valid for two years, but due to new underground injection guidelines, Anterra was supposed to complete the work within 180 days, by Dec. 19, 2020. (1)

On Jan. 5, Drysdale told the VCReporter, again via email, that “Anterra notified CalGEM to witness abandonment work on Diedrich 5 [one of the disposal wells] on Dec. 19. The abandonment work had started, but it was not yet complete. We have not been notified to witness work on Diedrich 2 yet. We were told they are working on finding an available rig.” (2)

When asked about consequences for the company missing the Dec. 19 deadline, Drysdale responded on Jan. 12, saying, “Anterra did not face a December 19, 2020 deadline to plug and abandon Diedrich 2 and 5 nor did its permits to plug and abandon the wells expire on that date.  Diedrich 5 has been successfully plugged and abandoned, and CalGEM remains in contact with Anterra regarding the plugging and abandoning of Diedrich 2.  CalGEM understands that Diedrich 2 is soon to be plugged and abandoned once the operator secures a rig to complete the work.” (2)

In a response dated Jan. 14, to a request to clarify the discrepancy in information provided, Drysdale for CalGEM stated, “CalGEM has been and continues to be in contact with Anterra to ensure the safe and complete plugging and abandoning of Diedrch 2 and 5.” 

Clarifying CalGEM’s view, Drysdale continued, “Anterra did not face a statutory compliance deadline of December 19, 2020 to plug and abandon Diedrich 2 and 5 nor did its permits to plug and abandon the wells expire on that date.  The 180-day timeline comes from a regulation (California Code of Regulations, title 14, section 1724.10, subdivision (i)(5)) that sets a default 180-day timeline to complete whatever remedial work might be necessary when a well fails a mechanical integrity test.  Diedrich 2 and 5 passed their mechanical integrity tests and therefore the 180-day timeline does not apply.  We regret the miscommunication in the November reply.” Drysdale also stated, “If the operator is found to be out of compliance at any time, CalGEM will evaluate appropriate corrective actions.” (3)

Update (Monday, Jan. 18): In response to requests to clarify the “miscommunication” regarding the deadline, the public affairs office with the Department of Conservation said the type of testing conducted in 2020 was not the type subject to the the regulations that require a 180 day timeframe, thus the plugging of the wells was not subject to a deadline.”

“The pressure falloff test is a test of the reservoir, not the well. It does not indicate whether a well has mechanical integrity. As a result of the pressure falloff test failure, approval to inject in Diedrich 2 and 5 was suspended and the wells were shut in.” The Department of Conservation explained, “To clarify, the pressure falloff test is a condition of this project’s Project Approval Letter and not in regulation. The mechanical integrity tests required in CCR sections 1724.10.1 and 1724.10.2 are the only tests that the regulations require remedial work or further testing within 180 days unless a longer timeframe is approved.”

  1. Don Drysdale, Department of Conservation, CalGEM, email dated Nov. 23: CalGEM email response Anterra Nov 23 2020.
  2. Don Drysdale, Department of Conservation, CalGEM, emails dated Jan. 5-14, 2020: CalGEM Anterra response Jan 5-14 2020

This story was updated at 9:00 a.m. on Jan. 14, 2021.