Submitted Wed, Jun 10 along with a Petition summarizing key recommendations highlighted below with 85 signatures.
To: DAVID SHABAZIAN, DIRECTOR, CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION; AND UDUAK-JOE NTUK, STATE OIL AND GAS SUPERVISOR, GEOLOGIC ENERGY MANAGEMENT DIVISION
We are the local chapter of 350 that is a “global movement of ordinary people working to end the age of fossil fuels and build a world of community-led renewable energy for all”. Carbon dioxide concentrations must be drawn down to 350 parts per million as soon as possible and government at all levels must lead. We advocate health and safety in all aspects of fossil fuel extraction and its use based on the latest science.
We are volunteers with varied expertise bringing together thousands of people and working with several like-minded organizations in Ventura County in a unified voice for strong climate policies. More about our partner organizations and a survey of eight years of advocacy below.
Recommendations to CalGEM Rulemaking
We look at the whole energy system in a priority goal to reverse global warming. The more systematically and transparently you make the regulations to phase out the extraction of oil and gas, the more smooth will be the inevitable transition for everyone who is dependent on oil and gas for products, tax revenues, jobs, profits, and royalties.
Wells must be properly closed and pipelines decommissioned. In February 2019 a petition to the Ventura County Board of Supervisors https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/petition-to-vc-supervisors-and-planners-about-vc2040-draft-general-plan-and-eir signed by 218 people includes the demand for an insurance program as well as bigger bonds to cover cost of well closures. A timeline is needed to close idle wells and active and orphaned wells starting with a 2500-ft buffer zone from sensitive areas and then increasing the buffer zone until oilfields are cleaned up. This includes associated pipelines. Local governments and economies affected by oil and gas producers need to know YOUR plan so they can make their own climate adaptation plans.
The 2020 Idle Well inventory shows 2,248 idle wells in our county (total 34,870 in the state). The pipelines in Ventura County present a frightening seismic risk as they travel from West Ventura under Ventura City Hall and our main commercial corridor, our two major hospitals, the Ventura County Government Center and highly populated areas delivering oil and gas to storage sites and refineries.
The scope and cost of closing wells is staggering as described in these two articles that appear not to include the scope and cost of decommissioning pipelines, a major need and challenge in Ventura County.
The first LA Times article reports a finding that more than 350,000 Californians live within 600 feet of unplugged wells within the range of polluted air quality. The CCST analysis finds that 5,540 wells in California may already have no viable operator, and that the potential net liability for the State appears to be about $500 million. An additional 69,425 economically marginal and idle wells could become orphaned in the future especially in context of our uncertain economy.
The scope and cost of decommissioning pipelines is considered in formal Comment to the Ventura County Board of Supervisors about weaknesses of a Grand Jury report about oil spills from broken pipelines. The comment lists the weaknesses of the Grand Jury study revealing all of the questions that should be asked about safety of pipelines.
There will be no loss of jobs for oilfield workers in Ventura County, because there are so many idle, orphaned and aging wells and pipelines that need to be closed. Worries about jobs seem disingenuous when job security for oil field workers is obviously assured for as long as complete transition takes. Is there an estimate of the labor-hours to close 35,000 wells and then the remaining 60,000+ wells that will stop producing due to lack of demand?
We further endorse basic recommendations made by others for this rulemaking:
- 2500-ft. buffer between oil and gas operations and sensitive sites
- Test well casing joints rigorously because they get weak, risking leaks
- Test high-risk cyclic steam injection mechanisms adequately and yearly
- Test air quality in neighborhoods to account for continuous exposures
- Plan adequately for earthquakes
- Ban flaring and release of fugitive methane
- Ban drilling through aquifers
- Ban the use of toxic herbicides in oilfields
We have been communicating these concerns to Ventura County Planning Department for three years. We need more coherent statewide norms for Planning Departments setting policy. We ask that the state require all County and City Climate Action Plans to include the following policies for the duration of transition away from fossil fuels:
- Require that all Climate Action Plans count ALL GHGs in their inventory. We need to know the emissions from all activity in the jurisdiction whether the fossil fuel is burned in the county or outside the county. GHG inventories must show that all emissions are counted by some jurisdiction.
- Calculate Global Warming Potential (GWP) of methane using the latest science. The International Panel on Climate Change states that over a 20 year period, methane has a GWP of 84. A complete and scientifically valid GHG inventory is required for a CEQA-compliant Climate Action Plan.
- Use Executive Order B-18-55, the emissions reduction goal from Governor Brown’s Executive Order “to achieve carbon neutrality as soon as possible, and no later than 2045, and achieve and maintain net negative emissions thereafter”.
- Reduce oil and gas production by 40% by 2025 via higher monitoring standards and 2500 ft buffer zones near sensitive sites; reduce production to zero by no later than 2040.
- Phase-Out of Oil and Gas Production by banning new drilling and regulate existing wells to assure steady closing of wells beginning near residential and commercial areas.
- Properly close wells put on hold and restore fields to functioning ecosystems to help mitigate climate change impacts.
- Require any newly permitted discretionary oil wells to collect gases and use or remove them for sale or proper disposal instead of flaring or venting. Flaring should be allowed only in cases of emergency or for testing purposes.
- Require that newly permitted discretionary oil wells convey oil and produced water via pipelines instead of trucking.
- Detect and curb methane emissions from “super-emitter” sites as identified by NASA.
- Require accountable performance bonds to cover cost of closure.
- Establish an insurance fund that oil and gas producers contribute to that will cover accidents and closing wells if the producer goes bankrupt.
- Analyze level of significance from wasteful, inefficient, or unnecessary consumption of energy resources relative to CEQA through public workshops.
- Benchmark Greenhouse Gas Emissions mitigations to be achieved before it is too late to reverse runaway climate chaos.
- Address impacts of toxic explosions, leaks, and spills and the drift of regulated materials and lack of knowledge of toxic impacts where feasible through mitigations that regulate the use and transport of hazardous materials.
Our advocacy for the Ventura County Climate Action Plan has been within its framework of the General Plan Update. Hence in the Hazard and Safety Element of the Ventura County General Plan Update recommendations from us and local oil and gas watchdog organization Climate First-Replacing Oil and Gas (CFROG) advocated the following policies for oil spill prevention. We will soon see if any of our recommendations make it into the Draft EIR. It would help our work in General Plan Updates if these policies were part of state regulations.:
- Monitor and publish all pipeline inspection and maintenance reports especially including the backlog report on natural gas leaks.
- Conduct a review of inactive transport pipelines, with active franchise fee payments being made annually in lieu of proper clean-up and removal in order to determine potential risks to public health, natural habitats and water resources.
- Require on all existing and any new discretionary use permits for oil and gas operations to include analysis of risk to nearby surface and groundwater resources. In the event that water resources will be jeopardized a significant impact shall be determined. And the county shall require maintenance logs and information to be submitted to the planning department every 12 months for all pipelines of any type within oil fields to be included in the public file for review. The County shall partner with other local, state, and federal agencies that are gathering data relevant to this policy.
- Implement a fine for spills, leaks and other releases of oil and gas to build a real incentive for operators to avoid spills – it will be costly above and beyond the loss of product.
- Collect and review production, flaring and backlog leak reports and periodically investigate their accuracy to determine the amount of carbon equivalent in each category for the purposes of calculating a carbon tax at the societal cost of atmospheric pollution and the air, public health, and other costs associated with produced and flared oil and gas and leaked unburnt methane.
Background/who we are: A survey of 350 Ventura County Climate Hub key partners and energy campaigns.
We work with Sierra Club volunteers locally and learn from members who belong to the CA Sierra Club Energy Climate Committee. We appreciate the work of Food and Water Watch whose organizer Tomas Rebecchi arrived in 2012. We gave him his first public platform at a climate march rally. We support their anti-fracking and other environmental protection campaigns. We rely on the technical and legal expertise from CFROG, Climate First-Replacing Oil and Gas, a local watchdog organization that formed seven years ago and educates us about decades of Ventura County Planning Department rubber stamping renewals of old grandfathered and ministerial oil and gas permits with no public process to review environmental impacts. Also the Climate Hub collaborates with 25 social justice, environmental and action groups.
Again, we see oil and gas regulation in an energy systems framework and this survey of our campaigns during the past six years illustrates our goal to reduce the demand for fossil fuels at the same time that we demand their phase out.
- In 2014, our activists were the first in our county to condemn the California Public Utilities Commission approval of the SoCal Edison contract with NRG to build the gas-powered Puente Power Plant on our shores. We allied with several organizations in the campaign and now are celebrating the largest energy storage battery in the nation to be built in Oxnard.This campaign built on the legacy of a successful rejection of an LNG plant at Ormond Beach before our chapter was founded. These successful battles show that we are tenacious, formidable veterans in fighting fossil fuels in west Ventura County.
- In 2016 we supported the CFROG complaint to Ventura County Supervisors about lack of oversight of pipeline management. Issues of pipeline leaks have been covered in our local press including in this article by Kimberly Rivers “Oil and water don’t mix – groundwater contamination focus of state water board investigations” published in 2016. These questions may still not be adequately resolved and need your consideration. https://vcreporter.com/2016/11/45876/
- In 2016 we advocated for SB1386 regulating Short-Lived Climate Pollutants especially methane. We were shocked that the legislature under pressure of Governor Brown gave a seven year grace period to the dairy industry. Our former Assemblymember Das Williams destroyed his uneven climate legacy in our assessment with that political compromise.
- In 2017 we supported Senator Weikowski’s SB775, a robust Cap and Trade program with climate dividends to residents in need. We spoke in hearings at the Capitol. Our Assemblymember Monique Limon established her impeccable, courageous climate legacy by being one of four who opposed Governor Brown. As our next Senator Limon knows where we stand and is going to continue to refuse to compromise with polluting industries. Should she be made Senate Pro Tem.
- We participated in the Environmental Justice campaign to create a Cap and Tax program with comprehensive and aggressive goals to raise the price on carbon. We actively supported the demands of the Environmental Justice Advisory Committee of CARB. We reiterated their demands for legislation to stop CARB’s flagrant give-aways of far too many pollution allowances and offsets and intensifying air pollution around refineries and other major polluters.
- We supported Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett’s 2017 declaration “We Are All In with Paris” in 2017 and his 2018 resolution endorsing a carbon tax. He knows from eight years of our building political will for a stable climate in the county that we look for him to be an extraordinary climate and environmental leader in the California Assembly.
- We organized against long daily railroad tanker cars hauling tar sands oil from the Bakken to Santa Maria Refinery in SLO County. We won, preventing “bomb-trains” from coming through our county and four potentially at-risk cities.
- Neither Ventura County nor any of its ten cities has a Climate Action Plan. Our central demand for the VC General Plan Update/Climate Action Plan has been that IF the county expects it to qualify as a Climate Action Plan it must aim to sunset oil production by 2040 and reduce production by 40% below 2013 levels by 2025. Their last draft was a disappointment on many core issues on which our recommendations have been repeatedly clarified. There has not been reciprocity in our experience of our offerings of public input. We are preparing to see our county in court over several issues of climate emissions accountability and failure of the policies to meet the climate goals.
- We did the grassroots work for three years to build support behind Ventura County and seven of its cities joining the Clean Power Alliance (CPA) our Community Choice Energy utility. We recently supported an initiative resulting in Ventura County and five cities setting their default rate tiers at 100% green renewable energy (9% higher than SoCal Edison rates), an unmatched success for renewable energy procurement among CCEs in the state by orders of magnitude. This remarkable victory exemplifies our high ambition and unrelenting tenacity in pursuit of our goals for clean energy paralleling our advocacy against polluting energy.
- We have advocated for undergrounding transmission lines that could have prevented the Thomas Fire. We further helped inform clean energy project developers and property owners to participate in a SoCal Edison solicitation for DERs. The PUC caved to SCE allowing the RFO to be reduced in scope to exclude projects in our county. We organized fifteen speakers to give the PUC a list of serious grievances when they held their monthly meeting in Oxnard in May 2018 making a particular point about their failure to include health in their decision about the calculation of societal cost. Outrageous! Our activists have ridden the bus to San Francisco twice to speak for a minute each to the PUC in open comment about our rejection of their policies promoting gas-fueled electricity at the end of the SCE grid.
- We are part of statewide lobbying to reform Transmission Access Charges (TAC) and divest transmission assets from SoCal Edison. Investor Owned Utilities must be restructured as Distribution System Operators and turn Transmission System Operation over to publicly managed entities mandated to minimize investment in long-distance transmission in favor of local DER development. We demand that TAC be fixed to incentivize community microgrids and assure fire prevention and disaster preparedness. With TAC reform, billions in reduced costs of TAC over 20 years will go to local clean energy that will decrease demand for fossil fuels more than you planners are allowed to imagine. TAC is a well-hidden legacy gift of the CPUC to protect IOU investor profits no matter the cost and risk to the environment and local communities. TAC is further a penalty on the publicly owned utilities outside that system. Fixing TAC is crucial now more than ever for economic recovery. Therefore, as urgently as we ask you to make a timeline for shutting down idle wells and decommissioning pipelines, we urge you to tell Governor Newsom and CPUC President Marybel Batjer to fix TAC. It is an unconscionable barrier to the development of local clean energy projects in wildfire-prone areas like ours at the end of SCE’s grid. Your work must be seen through the lens of future dramatically declining demand as we see right now. And we can wean Ventura County off of fossil fuel use much faster with TAC reform and a meaningful price on carbon.
- Current campaigns of 350 VC Climate Hub are asking our local jurisdictions to immediately adopt programs and ordinances to reduce demand for fossil fuels, especially natural gas. We are asking them to
- declare a Climate Emergency and form a climate committee to identify the most immediately impactful ordinances to reduce emissions, and
- adopt REACH codes to ban gas connections in new construction and for outdoor lighting ordinances that cut energy use by more than half.
We will steadily keep moving the needle on public opinion. The Yale Climate Communications 2018 poll for Ventura county showed three quarters of respondents think climate change is real.
79% advocate regulation of CO2 as a pollutant
69% want a carbon tax
54% say the Governor should do more while 16% say he should do less
73% say that environmental protection is more important than economic growth
In an inevitable, transparent market-driven stabilizing dynamic helped by good policy, ambitious oil and gas phase-out will be matched by ambitious energy conservation and clean energy development. That must be your vision to be able to anticipate the priorities for public health and safety. There will be a Ventura County carbon tax in our General Plan and a steadily rising federal carbon tax stacked on California’s Cap and Trade program next year. These policies enable local and global markets to cut fossil fuel use. You must be there to help the industry prepare for disruptive transition without leaving a horrible mess.
Most of all the acceleration of climate tipping points makes weak, inconsistent and piecemeal regulations unacceptable. You can show the world how California, once in the pocket of the oil and gas industry, can step back from the brink for the health and safety of the living system of our planet.