Climate First: Replacing Oil & Gas

”Your climate watchfrog on the Central Coast”

Advocacy Campaigns

Advocacy Campaigns

When deciding whether to engage on an issue, we make sure it aligns with our organizational values:

1. Protect human health on the Central Coast.

Many communities get more than their fair share of environmental pollution from oil and gas activity, past and present. We seek to remedy the disproportionate impacts on communities of color and promote environmental justice.

2. Ensure industry accountability and oversight.

We envision a future where the energy industry is held accountable for the negative impacts of their operations, and local government oversight is stringent and well-thought-out. Our advocacy centers on projects and places where there has been inadequate oversight of oil industry activities.

3. Set a precedent outside the Central Coast.

While we focus on one small corner of the world, we also realize that the bold actions of one local government can set a precedent for other agencies – local, state, and even federal – to follow suit. We focus on victories that could create a ‘ripple effect’ and help other organizations advocate for the same changes in their communities.

 

Expand an issue below to learn more: 

Ventura's Toxic Compressor Station

We are part of the Westside Clean Air Coalition, a group trying to stop the expansion of a natural gas compressor station in Ventura’s Westside neighborhood. The facility is owned by SoCalGas, the same company responsible for the Aliso Canyon natural gas blowout. It is right across the street from EP Foster Elementary School, the Boys and Girls Club, and many residences, mostly occupied by low-income Latinx families and economically marginalized households.

Hundreds of children live and go to school within the facility’s  “incineration zone” – the area that would be obliterated if there were to be an accidental explosion at the site.

Fourteen compressor station explosions have occurred in the United States since 2011. That’s why they are often built on large plots of land to provide a buffer for safety. In contrast, Ventura’s compressor station is literally across the street from an elementary school!

Compressor stations leak harmful and toxic gases (methane and VOCs) into the air. The last accidental leak occurred on July 2, 2021 and caused 29 calls to 911 and numerous headaches and nosebleeds for residents.

The SoCalGas compressor site is currently undergoing toxic soil remediation so that its compression capacity can be doubled, even though demand for natural gas in the city has declined in the past few years and most likely will decline sharply in the future.

Learn more about the danger of compressor stations here.

Take action here.

Simple questions about their facility’s safety still gets no answer from SoCal Gas. Is there anywhere else in your system where gas compressors are located close to schools, boys & girls clubs, or homes? In a 3 hour special meeting of the Ventura City Council on Monday, July 19, 2021, the closest SCG got to an honest answer was “maybe another one is fairly close to homes.”

As the council and community continue to pressure for an environmental impact report on the proposed expansion of the compressor next to EP Foster Elementary School in West Ventura even Jessica Foley Public Planning Manager for the gas company said of parents “ I’d be concerned too.”

But not enough to voluntarily conduct an EIR but they did agree to “discuss it.” The gas company apologized for the most recent accidental release of gas into the neighborhood but downplayed the amount released and the panic it created on July 2nd.

Later Ventura Mayor Sofia Rubalcava had the company detail other gas releases totaling several hundred thousand cubic feet of methane mixed with other chemicals going back to when they first began reporting in 2017. The company also failed to answer another question that has been asked repeatedly. How much gas was released over several years without the company knowing it until it was discovered as a “super emitter “ with overhead flights by NASA?

Again they said, “we need to research it.” The meeting began with comments from members o the public, many of who are affiliated with the Westside Clean Air Coalition. Hundreds of residents have marched twice to the compressor demanding at least an EIR and eventually closing of the facility.

Helen Conly, a board member of CFROG, kicked off the testimony with the frequent lament that a facility like this that has a huge risk of explosion should not be so close to people. Especially very young children whose lungs are vulnerable. Doctor Robert Dodge of Ventura with Physicians For Social Responsibility told the council this is an example of environmental racism where the health of children is being sacrificed. Dr. Dodge said if the council lets this expansion take place it would be “public malpractice.”

SCG insists the addition of 4 new turbines to replace 3 is “modernization“ But the horsepower would rise from 3300 to 7600 and more volume can be pushed at high pressure to the underground storage area in Goleta. One nagging question was answered. The gas in the high-pressure pipeline comes from out of state, mostly Texas. And while the risk is in West Ventura, the gas goes to Santa Barbara County.

And what about safety? Omar Rivera with SoCalGas said of the proposed installation: “I wouldn’t say it’s safer.

Repeatedly speakers complained of nose bleeds, asthma and possibly cancer associated with proximity to the McFarlane compressor. Beliefs backed up by Dr. Dodge.

At the end of the 3-hour discussion, the gas company again promised to answer many unanswered questions. As gas company public affairs spokeswomen Maria Ventura said her oft-repeated line: “we will circle back with that.

Who can make the gas company examine the environmental impacts? Governor Newsom? The California Public Utilities Commission? The City of Ventura?

We believe all could do it and they must.

The gas company is pushing to remove tons of toxic soil from the property very soon.

But installing the new, bigger compressors, if approved, would take place from 2022 -2025.

CFROG as part of the Westside Clean Air Coalition believes new infrastructure for fossil fuels as the planet suffers from climate change is the wrong way to go. Other Westside Clean Air partner organizations  include CAUSE, Food & Water Watch, Last Chance Alliance, Patagonia, Ventura Climate 350, Runners for Public Lands and Bike Ventura.

Abandoned Well Discovery Project

“Plugged and abandoned” is a term used to describe wells that have been safely and successfully closed, meaning that they should no longer pose any danger to the land, air, and water. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. Many wells labeled as safely “plugged and abandoned” present significant environmental health risks.

The Central Coast has a long history as an oil-producing region, which fracked its first wells in the 1950s using a mixture of sand and diesel fuel. This history of extreme and persistent extraction has left Ventura County with over 4000 plugged and abandoned wells, and over 2000 idle wells. “Plugged and abandoned” is a term used to describe wells that have been safely and successfully closed, meaning that they should no longer pose any danger to the land, air, and water. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. Many wells labeled as safely “plugged and abandoned” present significant environmental health risks. 

Idle and abandoned oil & gas wells are dangerous. Volatile gasses and toxic fluids can migrate to the surface and spread through the soil and groundwater, contaminating both. Abandoned wells frequently leak methane, an ultra-potent greenhouse gas which, when concentrated, can become a source for deadly explosions. The longer a well is idle, the more dangerous it can become. Additionally, in Ventura County, some of the wells listed as “plugged” prior to 1960 were plugged using mud instead of cement. Long term, all of these wells – abandoned, idle, and inadequately plugged – are environmental disasters. Some already happening, some just waiting to happen. 

CFROG is busy in research mode, investigating CalGEM’s database of abandoned and idle oil & gas wells. For a long time, we’ve suspected that many “plugged” wells still pose significant environmental health threats from both methane and seepage. The question is – how many? We are starting a project that will investigate old records for each of the 4000+ abandoned wells in Ventura County, and cross-check with available documents to see which wells have got years – or even decades! – with a reported leak or containment issue that has not been resolved. Statewide, CalGEM oversees the retiring of abandoned and idle wells and collects assessment fees for that purpose. However, it is widely known that funds available are not enough to properly abandon all of California’s idle and poorly abandoned wells – a clean up cost estimated at $9.2 billion, or $68,000 per well. Some companies have contributed as little as $80 per well owned to the state’s clean-up fund. Local governments are responsible for land permits, and must take ultimate responsibility for ensuring the land is restored to its natural state. An important first step in using CalGEM’s clean-up funds responsibly is to make sure we have all the data needed on well conditions to create a list of problematic idle and abandoned wells, ranked by level of urgency. 

All-Electric Reach Codes

The All-Electric Reach Code prohibits natural gas use in new buildings. Reach Codes simultaneously save energy and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Each new gas line we build is an environmental, health, and financial liability.

Every three years, counties and cities have the opportunity to adopt new Building Standards Codes (also known as Title 24 of the California Code of Regulations). When a building code is more advanced than what is required by the state, it becomes known as a “reach code”. The All-Electric Reach Code prohibits natural gas use in new buildings. Reach Codes simultaneously save energy and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Each new gas line we build is an environmental, health, and financial liability. Gas rates keep rising, and gas lines are costly to maintain. Gas lines leak methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases. Indoor gas use pollutes our homes and businesses, with serious health impacts including childhood asthma. Buildings emit 24% of California’s GHGs – but they don’t have to! The best way to phase out natural gas is to prevent new lines from being built.

CFROG sent a letter of support to the Ojai City Council in favor of adopting an All-Electric “Reach” Building Codes. Happily, the Council voted in favor of developing an ordinance. Ultimately, these new codes promise to move Ojai away from natural gas and install all-electric appliances in new construction. Ojai (and Oxnard) are on 100% renewable electricity sources already – so all-electric building codes really cement the transition to clean energy there! Ojai is the first of what we hope are many Central Coast cities to adopt all-electric Reach Codes. As of today, 38 California cities have adopted All-Electric Reach Codes.

Climate Action Plans

We are collaborating with activists city-by-city on encouraging the adoption of robust Climate Action Plans. A climate action plan is a strategic framework that measures, plans for, and consciously reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in city-funded activities. Municipalities that design and implement climate action plans have a custom roadmap for minimizing their carbon footprint, which helps make informed decisions about how to achieve the biggest, most cost-effective emissions reductions, in alignment with other local community goals. Climate Action Plans typically include an inventory of existing GHG emissions, reduction targets, and a list of priorities in reaching reduction goals. Ideally, a climate action plan also includes a detailed strategy for implementation, as well as a detailed budget, that identifies the needed resources and funding mechanisms to go from plan to reality. CFROG is currently advocating for the development of robust and achievable Climate Action Plans in Ventura, Oxnard, and Thousand Oaks.

Defending the General Plan

 

Ten lawsuits have been filed against Ventura County by the oil industry, challenging the common-sense environmental regulations in Ventura County’s new 2040 General Plan. Cases will soon be heard in Ventura County Superior Court. The County is facing multiple lawsuits that question the validity of the new General Plan which has the most stringent oil & gas regulations in the nation. It’s a precedent-setting document for a clean energy future – but it could be dead out of the gate if we don’t defend it adequately. We are working with law firm Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger to devise a strategy of how CFROG will best help our county defend our community’s hard-won victories in the General Plan.

Ending Extreme Oil Extraction

Cyclic steam injection is primarily done in Oxnard, a community that is already overburdened with environmental pollution. Oil production from cyclic steam injection in the Oxnard Plain has historically resulted in multiple oil operator bankruptcies, major spills, polluted groundwater, and large clean up and well abandonment costs passed on to the taxpayer.

CFROG has already been in one lengthy public battle over cyclic steam injection, a dirty and dangerous technique where high-pressure steam is pumped deep underground to liquefy Oxnard’s otherwise inaccessible Tar Sands oil. When CFROG exposed the multiple permit violations by the oil operator, and demonstrated that petroleum-related gasses were showing up in the Fox Canyon Aquifer, our efforts – together with community activism – resulted in a 2-year moratorium on cyclic steam injection in Ventura County. That moratorium expired in December 2020, and there is no legal possibility for extension. So once again, oil companies will be seeking to use cyclic steam injection to squeeze every last drop of petroleum out of the ground. Cyclic steam injection is primarily done in Oxnard, a community that is already overburdened with environmental pollution. Oil production from cyclic steam injection in the Oxnard Plain has historically resulted in multiple oil operator bankruptcies, major spills, polluted groundwater, and large clean up and well abandonment costs passed on to the taxpayer. Spills of Diluent – a toxic solvent which is used to dilute the thick tar for transport to market – have resulted in benzene, toluene, and petroleum seeping onto rich farm soil as well as groundwater. Evidence of these spills remains at detectable levels today. Ventura County is the eleventh largest agricultural producer in the United States, and Oxnard is the world’s leading producer of strawberries. We are advocating for a county-wide ban on cyclic steam injection and other forms of extreme extraction techniques – that if enacted, would set a precedent for local governments to take action where California is unable or unwilling to do so. While it is likely to be a multi-year process, CFROG aims for legislation that will leave Oxnard’s remaining oil resources in the ground. We must protect both our prime farmland, recognized as some of the best in the world, as well as the nearly half a million people who call Oxnard their home.