NIMBY replaces responsible policymaking
Ventura County Star (CA) - January 31, 2015
Anterra had come to the county officials with a plan to change the zoning laws to make permanent its facility on three acres in an agriculture field off Wooley Road and Rose Avenue that has been operating for 15 years. What the board was faced with in its decision Tuesday was not approval or rejection of the idea, but approval of its planning department’s continued review of the idea.
On a 4-1 vote, the board said no.
It was swayed by an outpouring of opposition from Oxnard residents and officials, plus the strident rejection by the area’s supervisor, John Zaragoza. There was fear expressed about possible accidents from the site, even though Anterra has not had any reported incident during its operation, and possible contamination of potable aquifers even though there is no evidence of leaching from the underground disposal pools to the drinking water pool.
Using deep injection wells to dispose of nonhazardous oil and gas waste is a long-standing and approved industry procedure. In fact, there are 585 such injection wells in Ventura County handling the waste from the 1,729 active oil-producing wells. Most sit adjacent to the oil wells and handle the material from that site. The few drillers who do not have an injection well need a commercial operation to handle it. That’s where Anterra came in.
The site, sitting just yards away from Oxnard city limits and surrounded on three sides by industrial development, was first approved for oil drilling in the 1950s, and for the deep injection wells 15 years ago under a conditional use permit.
That permit runs until 2018. Anterra proposed a permanent zoning change to allow this type of commercial operation in all similar agriculture zones in the county. It also proposed a change in its use permit to run the business 24 hours a day and triple the number of truckloads.
We have serious concerns about the change in the zoning laws, and about the expansion of the uses. We certainly wanted to know more about the impacts of these changes, and particularly about the long-term impacts on the water table. But we were willing to allow the professional county staff to do its job and explore the proposal, gathering and presenting the factual information so the various entities involved in approving the changes could make fact-based decisions.
Instead the board decided to respond to the loudest voices and not proceed. That’s unfortunate. It unnecessarily provides more fodder for those who say this county is anti-business.
Finding a home for this waste product that we produce in the county is an imperative policy decision. In making that decision, we do need to understand more about the long-term impacts of pumping this waste into the ground. Deciding only that we don’t want it in my neighborhood, or don’t want it anywhere in the county as has been expressed, is not a reasonable public policy approach.