by Todd Collart

The oil industry is guilty of lies of commission and lies of omission. Since the 1980s the industry has successively lied about global warming and climate change to thwart efforts to deal with these threats (three-part PBS Frontline documentary). Subsequently it lied about the ability to recycle plastics to blunt efforts to restrict their production from petroleum (Los Angeles Times, April 29, 2022). Rather than being readily recyclable, the Times reported that less than 10% is recycled. 

Now, the largest oil corporations have banned together with $6.5 million to defeat Measures A and B on the June ballot (Ventura County Star, March 3, 2022). Their strategy, implemented by their spokesman Mr. Ben Oakley, is to lie by commission and omission.

Mr. Oakley has lied by asserting Measures A and B will shut down the local energy industry, eliminate jobs, cut tax revenues and raise gas prices. He continues to lie by omission in that he makes these claims while offering no facts to support them. His scare-mongering relies on voters’ latent concerns about the issues he raises, BUT he does NOT cite language in the relevant ordinances and policies adopted by Ventura County Supervisors in 2020 that precipitated the industry’s paid-for referendum, now on the ballot.

I urge voters to look over Mr. Oakley’s written comments for factual citations. It is like a scavenger hunt. There are some vague clues about specific concerns, but no facts. He asserts the mere act of making modern oil permit provisions applicable to new wells on old (pre-1970) permits amounts to a “shut-down” of the entire industry without explaining how. He seems to have overlooked the fact that modern permitting provisions have been in place since the 1980s and the oil industry has applied for and received numerous oil permits under them without precipitating a “shut-down.”  By voting YES for Measures A and B the public gets more public health safeguards and environmental protections without a “shut-down” of the industry as already proven. It’s a win-win for the residents of Ventura County.

The primary function of Measures A and B is to extend modern provisions to new wells drilled on old Pre-1970s permits. Why is this important? Old permits:

  • Do not allow for an environmental assessment of potential impacts from proposed new wells and related infrastructure.
  • Are hundreds of acres or more in area and collectively cover 127,000 acres. Modern permits are very limited in size to a few acres.
  • Allow an unlimited number of new wells to be drilled anywhere within their boundaries, an expansive 127,000 acres in total. Modern permits are limited to one or a few wells on specifically identified locations.
  • Have no time limits, whereas modern permits are generally limited to 50 or fewer years. 
  • Have operating standards that are very general and limited in scope. Modern permits have an array of conditions that address numerous site specific issues.
  • Require only one $10,000 bond to cover site remediation for all wells in the permit area. Modern permits generally have at least this amount required for each well that is drilled. 

A YES vote closes the regulatory loophole the industry wants to maintain at the expense of your safety and the health of the environment, while claiming to, “produce the most environmentally responsible oil in the world.” If the oil corporations operating in Ventura County are so environmentally responsible, why are they spending $6,500,000 to evade existing modern operating provisions?

One claimed reason is that the industry is already highly regulated and needs no more oversight. If this is so, why are there: 

  • Repeated oil spills from ruptured oil lines? 
  • Abandoned operations and bankruptcies requiring the public tax dollars to clean up the mess? 
  • Contaminated water wells? 
  • Methane leaks that contribute to global warming more than CO2?
  • Documented increases in respiratory diseases in people living near wells?

Voting YES gives broadened control to local regulators to address such issues that other state and federal regulators have failed to address.

Only the industry can shut down energy production; Measures A and B cannot because Zoning Ordinance Sec. 8107-5.2a says the new provisions can be applied to the extent they do “… not impair any vested right of an operator under California law.” Energy and fuel costs (and profits) remain high while the industry exports oil abroad and has 9,000 approved permits across the country that have not been drilled on (CNBC, Thomas Franck, March 31, 2022). A NO vote on A and B puts profits ahead of your safety, while a YES vote expands existing environmental and public health provisions to 127,000 acres of old permits without a “shut-down” of the local energy industry.  

Todd Collart retired from a 35-year career in the Ventura County Planning Division where he spent a couple decades working on oil permitting issues.