Fracking in Upper Ojai: the latest

Fracking — which as you all no doubt know is the injection of water and chemicals below ground at pressure, to break up rock formations and release natural gas and/or oil — has come to rural Upper Ojai and Ventura County.

In truth, fracking turns out to have been going on in this area for a long time — decades. How long in this neighborhood is a little unclear. I have been told by neighbors that "all the wells in Upper Ojai" have been fracked. I also have been told that oil companies have applied to drill hundreds of new wells in Ventura County and the backcountry. I have heard that fracking is not a danger to our water supply because the oil wells being fracked are so far below the surface they can't possible contaminate surface waters. I am skeptical, after reading the latest on fracking from ProPublica

At the same time, I am aware that oil production is what first brought white people like me to this area, beginning in 1867, so perhaps I am complicit, in a sense, and should be a little more open-minded. 

The irony is that there is so little regulation on fracking in California that oil companies wishing to frack have to jump through more hoops to drill in the National Forest backcountry, where no one lives, and on which wells have stood for decades, than in neighborhoods such as ours. 

Here are some links to the latest: 

Chevron offers public tours of fracking site: Ventura County Star

“The most dangerous thing you will do today is climb in and out of the vans, so please watch your step,” said Leslie Klinchuch, Chevron’s project manager for what’s officially known as the Pacific Coast Pipeline Superfund site.

The point was that the site, despite being contaminated with a known cancer-causing substance and other pollutants, is safe to visit. It’s also safe to live near, according to decades of testing by Chevron and the EPA. Hundreds of Fillmore residents do live nearby, separated from the refinery site by the Pole Creek concrete drainage channel, and a few of them were on Tuesday’s tour to see the property for themselves.

Fracking has been going on in the nearby National Forest for decades, and four wells were fracked int he last couple of years. An investigatory report

The ForestWatch investigation revealed that at least four wells were fracked in the Sespe Oil Field in 2011, and at least three additional wells were fracked in 2012. The fracking occurred on private land owned by Seneca Resources Corporation, a Texas-based oil company that operates the vast majority of wells in the Sespe Oil Field. The company relies on slant drilling to reach oil deposits on federal leases beneath the Los Padres National Forest. The chemicals, supplies and equipment were provided by Halliburton, one of the world’s largest oil field service companies with revenues of $24.8 billion in 2011 and also headquartered in Texas.

The recent fracking operations were approved without any public notice or environmental review. This is because fracking is unregulated in the State of California, and is typically rubber-stamped by the California Department of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (“DOGGR”), the agency charged with regulating oil and gas extraction throughout the state. In one of the recent Los Padres fracking operations, DOGGR officials received a Notice of Intention to Rework Well 48-33 on the White Star lease on June 22, 2012, and three days later issued a one-page Permit to Conduct Well Operations authorizing the fracking. According to records submitted by Seneca Resources Corporation, the fracking operation was completed a few days later on July 5, 2012.

Fracking consumes millions of gallons of water a year in Ventura County (Ojai Valley News)

According to the voluntary reporting site, 13 wells
have been fracked in Ventura County since January 2011. Based on the
water volume listed for those wells, 3,679,879 gallons of water were
used during the franking process. According to the site, that total
could include fresh water, produced water and/or recycled water.

Produced water comes up during drilling and has to be separated from
the oil or gas. Fracfocus reports that 99.2 percent of the mixture
injected underground during fracking is water; the remaining .79 percent
is chemicals. That means 29,071 gallons of chemicals, gellants and
other components were used in the 13 wells that were voluntarily

Aera Energy — the largest oil producer in Ventura County, according
to its website — did not respond by press-time to requests for
information about its water sourcing and the quantity of fresh water it
has used in drilling operations.

James Hines of the Sierra Club of Ventura County claims industry
sources have disclosed that “60 wells have been fracked in Ventura
County alone, along the Ventura River and Rincon. Those areas drain to
the ocean. And along Sespe Creek,” said Hines. “With the new permits in
Upper Ojai and old wells which can be re-drilled, there is nothing to
stop them from fracking (in the valley),” he said. “There are plugged
and covered wells in the Casitas watershed area.”

Yikes! My thought is to try and learn how to identify a fracked well by sight, for my own knowledge, and potentially to get neighbors involved. But is that even possible? 

Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

One thought on “Fracking in Upper Ojai: the latest

  1. I am so worried about the comfort of longtime industry along with its offhand rejection of criticism. On the other hand, 29,000 gallons of ‘chemicals, gellants and other’ is about 2 tanker trucks and a flatbed of bags whereupon panicked neighbors can piggyback on their way to the protest. Indeed, bullying is poor politics for all. I’m thinking that the technical evaluation of wells for health, safety, ecology and good sense should simply be robust oversight BUT that’s part of the larger challenge of crony regulation and governing we no longer fully trust.


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