In the 2022 statewide primary election, voters will decide whether to end old permits that allow oil and gas companies to avoid public oversight and modern environmental review to drill or frack new wells. Until then, the current rules will remain in Ventura County, according to a release from groups opposed to the ballot measure.
Rebecca August, director of advocacy for Los Padres ForestWatch, a group that protects wildlife, wilderness and water, said the county closed the loophole last year that allowed some oil companies to skirt laws that protect public health and water supplies.
“The update simply made all new oil development and operations subject to the same rules that other businesses in Ventura County must follow,” August said in a statement. “You can see why the oil industry is fighting it.”
Sabrina Demayo Lockhart, spokesperson for Working Families for Jobs and Energy Independence, the group backing the ballot initiative, said that with more than 90,000 signatures, local residents have shown strong support for protecting local, affordable and reliable energy.
“Voters will have the final say in supporting responsible, domestically produced energy instead of exporting quality jobs and vital tax revenue to foreign countries that do not share our humanitarian or environmental values,” Lockhart said in a statement.
According to the group, oil and natural gas extraction supports 2,100 jobs in Ventura County and brings in $56 million in tax revenue.
In their release, the opposition groups said that California already has some of the weakest oil and natural gas drilling regulations in the country. Ventura became one of the few counties in the state to require a 2,500-foot buffer between schools and oil wells when it updated its General Plan last year. The oil industry is now suing over those updates as well to overturn them in court, the groups said.