Facing record unemployment, zero-at-best economic growth, and tens of thousands of residents leaving due to affordability concerns – even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck – Ventura County is in no position to discourage local businesses from continuing their operations.
Yet somehow that is precisely what keeps happening.
After being deceived by activists peddling unproven claims of water contamination and circumventing public input on the county’s General Plan, some local officials are now working to change longstanding processes to grab more power over permitting decisions. The gambit would amend zoning ordinances to give the Board an unprecedented power to deny permits to oil producers that have been operating safely for years.
The intent of these actions is clear. The coordinated efforts are explicitly designed to shut down oil production in Ventura County without any demonstrated need or rationale.
For instance, the latest effort – amending zoning regulations – is a discreet way to gum up the system and provide opportunities for activists to file frivolous permitting lawsuits and appeals. Ventura County faced 42 appeals challenging oil production permitting decisions between 2011 and 2017, costing the County Planning Commission hundreds of thousands in taxpayer funds to administer each year.
Notably, while dozens of appeals have been filed to stop oil and gas production permits, zero have been successful. If the Board of Supervisors moves to adjust the permitting processes for existing oil operations, it will open the flood gates for additional appeals, leading to increased waste of taxpayer funds and a massive slowdown in the permitting process.
With these sweeping actions aiming to shut down local oil operations, you might think Ventura County has experienced some kind of serious production crisis, but that’s simply not the case. Ventura County oil operations have produced millions of barrels of oil every year safely for decades – and have done so under the most stringent environmental and public health protections in the world.
Furthermore, existing Ventura County oil production helps reduce the need for foreign oil imports from halfway around the globe. California already imports 70% of the oil it uses every day and shutting down production in Ventura will only increase that percentage.
Instead of pursuing policies that will promote frivolous lawsuits and send good-paying local energy jobs overseas, the Board of Supervisors should be focused on COVID response and recovery and the massive economic challenges faced by their communities.