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Ventura County voters deciding fate of proposals to toughen oil, and gas drilling reviews

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Zbynek Burival
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Ventura County voters will decide the fates of Measures A and B Tuesday, which calls for older oil and gas facilities with drilling permits to meet current standards.

Ventura County's Measures A and B would require already permitted older oil and gas facilities to meet newer environmental standards for drilling.

How far should Ventura County go to protect the county against the potential negative impacts of oil and gas production?

That’s the question facing voters in the forms of Measures A and B. In 2020, Ventura County Supervisors passed an ordinance which would require operators with facilities which have years, sometimes decades old permits to go through new environmental reviews for drilling. Opponents gathered enough signatures to put the issue before voters.

Supporters of Measure A say it’s about protecting the environment.

"It is important because we have older well sites that don't have to have any environmental review before they can drill," said Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks. "Yet, all the other well sites in the county do...and so it's to bring them all to the same consistent, up-to-date standards."

Parks says it's just common sense to have one set of standards to safeguard the environment, and the county's residents.

But, opponents contend it would negatively impact the county’s existing oil and gas operations. They say it would increase dependence on imported oil, and cost energy jobs in the region.

"Measures A and B would restrict local energy supplies at a time when working families are already having trouble paying for energy," said Ben Oakley, who is a spokesman for the No on A and B campaign. "We don't think it's the right move for Ventura County. We are urging voters to reject these measures which would increase our dependence on foreign oil."

Parks says Measures A and B wouldn’t stop new oil and gas development, but would just require more environmental review.

"It protects our public health safety, and it still allows the oil industry to drill... it's just making sure the process by which they are given approval is up-to-date standards," said Parks.

"There's nothing more important to us than protecting the environment," said Oakley. "We work here, we live here, we want clean air and clean water... but Measures A and B don't provide any additional protections above the world-class standards that are already in place."

He says the measures would simply give politicians the ability to restrict the supply of local energy.

While the ballot measures boil the questions being asked to voters to a few sentences, the actual language behind it is complex, and daunting for voters.

Campaign spending on Measures A and B is the highest for any local measures in Ventura County history. The oil industry supported No on A and B campaign has outspent supporters by a roughly eight-to-one margin.