Pictured: Protestors stage a “die in” outside of a community meeting  held by Southern California Gas Company regarding their project to expand a gas compressor facility in West Ventura. Photo by Barry Harrington. 

by Kimberly Rivers

On Thursday, Oct. 14, about 45 people protested outside of a public meeting being held by Southern California Gas Company at the Museum of Ventura County in Ventura. The group staged a “die-in” representing what they say are impacts from the company’s gas compressor station in West Ventura on North Olive Street and associated with the company’s planned facility expansion for the site. 

The marchers moved in a circle and then fell to the ground. They wore signs around their necks indicating who they were or represented, including teachers, students and those with various ailments. One member of the group, wearing a hard hat, safety vest and representing a SoCalGas employee, stoked three pillars containing dry ice into making a white mist. 

Protestors opposing the expansion of a gas compressor facility in West Ventura operated by Southern California Gas Company on Oct. 14, 2021 outside the Museum of Ventura County. Photo by Barry Harrington.

“As is typical with SoCalGas, the fumes continue to fly,” said Liz Campos, chair of the Westside Community Council, who narrated the protest action. “It’s also important to note that even the workers are affected by the leaching gas.” 

As the community became aware of SoCalGas plans to expand the facility, the community also learned of the periodic “venting” of gas that takes place at the facility. Notification of local residents is not required when such venting occurs. 

Campos referred to a “gas blow out on July 3” when it took firefighters several hours to determine the source of a gas odor noticed by residents and businesses along Ventura Avenue. Eventually it was determined to have come from the SoCalGas facility. 

SoCalGas officials reported to the city of Ventura that occasionally the facility does have to “vent” gas, and confirmed it is not required to report such venting, and provided a list of reported venting events. 

While the protestors had planned to enter the museum courtyard, they were informed by museum staff that SoCalGas had rented both the indoor meeting room and the courtyard as part of their event. Members of the public had to check in with SoCalGas and due to pandemic-related restrictions, a maximum of 35 people were allowed into the meeting area at a time. 

Protestor, K.C. Rodriguez, confronts representatives of Southern California Gas Company at the Museum of Ventura County on Oct. 14, 2021. Screen capture from video by Barry Harrington.

At one point in the protest, the group marched up the stairs of the museum entrance after K.C. Rodriguez, a member of the local Barbareño/Ventureño Band of Mission Indians, confronted three men from SoCalGas who stood at the entrance. 

“You’re making teachers sick, you’re making children sick,” shouted Rodriguez.

The protest was organized by the Westside Clean Air Coalition, a group of local organizations and residents who are fighting to stop the expansion.

The California Public Utilities Commission has jurisdiction over utilities projects, including those by SoCalGas. Public outcry has demanded that the company conduct a study into project alternatives, including other locations.