- County Planning Application PL 13-0158, an application by Mirada Petroleum to Drill three new wells, redrill one well and related activities in the upper Ojai RECOMMENDATIONS:
- 1. Receive public input on the proposed project; and
- 2. Consider adopting a resolution requesting further environmental review and noticing of the project before consideration by the Ventura County Planning Commission.
And in response to that letter, Citizens For Responsible Oil and Gas (who will be presenting to the City of Ojai tonight - agenda item #8 at the meeting which begins at 7:00 p.m.) issued the letter posted below.
To: Rob Clark, Ojai City Manager
From Richard Holly, advisory member of CFROG
Re: Item 8 on 1-12-16 Ojai City Council Agenda
CFROG response to 1-7-16 Planning Department Kim Prillhart memo re Mirada Petroleum Project PL13-0158
The County’s analysis that newly proposed oil wells in Ventura County are exempt from the departments’ CEQA review of this and other discretionary projects is incorrect.
Under the Planning Department’s analysis there would be no limit to the number of oil wells in the Upper Ojai exempted from environmental review and comment by the City of Ojai. For instance, if this was an application to drill 25 or 50 new wells, there would be no need to provide Ojai notice and review authority of the project!
Ms. Prillhart’s and Mr. Thomas’ position that new oil well drilling projects are exempt from environmental review regarding air pollution emissions is fundamentally inconsistent with CEQA, the Ventura County General Plan, and the Ojai Valley Area Plan specific provisions to the contrary.
The major premise appears to be that there need be no CEQA review because oil wells must be permitted and such permits are ministerial.
However, the VCAPCD regulations regarding ministerial permitting of oil wells are not applicable to the county’s discretionary decision as to whether the application to modify the CUP to drill three new wells should be granted. This distinction is explicitly recognized in the Ventura County Air Quality Assessment Guidelines “Emissions that should be counted toward the ROC and NOx significance threshold include any emissions that will occur as a result of approval of some type of discretionary use permit.” (VCAQ Guidelines, 5.3, emphasis added.)
That is, whether to grant the subject application to modify the CUP to allow three new wells is a discretionary decision that requires CEQA review. CEQA review of course includes all the potential environmental physical impacts from the proposed project including air pollution emissions from the wells. Once there has been an environmental review, including whether the project will exceed the air pollution threshold in the OVAP, and if the application is granted in whole or in part, the subsequent permitting of such wells is a ministerial act that would require no further environmental review.
CEQA requires environmental review of the whole project and does not allow for exempting oil well air pollutions.
Unfortunately, the county’s memo confuses the oil well permitting process with the discretionary environmental review process applicable to this project.
In summary, what this all boils down to is that the county’s claim that the emissions from the proposed new oil wells should not be considered in the SEIR is inconsistent with the General Plan, the OVAP and a material violation of CEQA.
Failure to give the City of Ojai notice and review authority of the project
The City of Ojai requests the Ventura Planning Department to continue the scheduled hearing before the Ventura County Planning Commission to allow sufficient time to allow the city review authority of the project (OVAP § 1.1.3(5).)
Additionally, the Planning Department’s failure to include the City of Ojai in the review process of this project is also inconsistent with its’ practices and policies. Prior to the discovery that the planning department’s approval of this project erroneously omitted an analysis pursuant to the OVAP, the Planning Department provided notice to the City of Santa Paula.