Oil and Gas Program
This page is intended to provide an overview of oil and gas development projects in unincorporated Ventura County, as well as the local regulations and policies that guide Planning Division staff and County decision-makers in permitting these projects. Please contact the Discretionary Permit Coordinator, Winston Wright, at 654-2468 or Winston.Wright@ventura.org for further information on application requirements. If you have questions regarding Oil and Gas Program Compliance, please contact Ebony J. McGee at (805) 654-5037 or via email at Bonnie.Luke@ventura.org.
Oil and Gas Informational Workshop, August 7, 2014
- Citizens for Responsible Oil and Gas (CFROG), Environmental Concerns Presentation
- Exhibit I - Handout submitted by John Brooks
Oil and Gas Permit Applications
General Plan Policies
Zoning Ordinance Policies
Current On-Shore Operators
There are currently 57 oil companies operating in Ventura County comprising a total of 135 active permits for oil and gas exploration and development.
There are two processing facilities, both located onshore in the coastal zone that receive oil and gas from offshore oil leases.
Most oil companies that have operations in Ventura County have pipelines located within their oil and gas lease areas, but do not operate major transporting pipelines. The major pipelines for crude oil and natural gas are generally located along highways and railroad lines and are owned by large companies such as Shell, Equillon, Venoco and Southern California Edison.
Current Off-Shore Operators
There are several Federal and State oil and gas leases offshore of Ventura County. Oil and gas produced from these leases is transported by pipeline to several onshore facilities within the County. To develop these leases, offshore platforms were constructed, some of which were put in place in the late 1960’s.
Numerous Federal, State and local regulations are applicable to the platforms and onshore facilities.
The Federal Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) jurisdiction generally includes the area extending from 3 - 200 miles offshore. The U.S. Department of the Interior, US Department of Interior Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), regulates oil and gas development in this area. Before any exploration and development begins, the Federal government issues leases for specific offshore areas. BSEE leases OCS tracts for terms ranging from five to ten years. As part of the work to be done to prepare the lands to be included on the lease schedules, the U.S. Department of Interior must consider environmental, economical and social values of the OCS, as well as impacts of offshore drilling on marine, coastal and human environments.
The permitting of an OCS project, including its State waters and onshore components, typically requires the approval of Federal, State and local government authorities. Joint National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) reviews are commonly conducted. To integrate the concerns of other agencies in the direction of the environmental study effort, a Joint Review Panel (JRP) is often formed to act as a management committee.
In November of 1999, former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt approved suspensions of production for 36 undeveloped leases situated in federal waters offshore Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo Counties. The suspensions, in effect, extended the term of leases that were about to expire. Secretary Babbitt's action affected leases situated in the Lion Rock, Point Sal, Santa Maria, Purisima Point, Bonito, Rocky Point, Sword, Gato Canyon, and Cavern Point units, as well as the non-unitized lease OCS-P 0409. The federal government granted these leases between 1968 and 1984. To date, offshore operators have drilled 39 exploratory wells on these leases, but have not yet sought to produce the underlying reserves. Six offshore oil and gas lessees requested these suspensions, so they could have more time to revise or prepare new Exploration Plans and Development Plans.
California Governor Gray Davis and California Coastal Commission filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court to block Secretary Babbitt's approval of the suspensions. (Several other interested parties, including Santa Barbara County, joined the lawsuit.) In June of 2001, the U.S. District Court set aside Secretary Babbitt's action (California v. Norton). The Court found that the action did not meet requirements of the Coastal Zone Management Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. The Court's ruling delays any action by the US Department of Interior Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and the lessees to explore or develop these leases until the BSEE complies with the foregoing federal laws.
Prior to the court's ruling, the BSEE had begun preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for exploratory oil and gas drilling activities on OCS leases in federal waters offshore. The BSEE issued a Draft EIS for public review in June 2001. The agency indefinitely suspended the environmental review following the court's ruling.
The project for which the BSEE prepared its Draft EIS consists of the sequential drilling of between five and eight delineation wells on existing leases in federal waters on the OCS. The operators have proposed to drill these wells to further define the physical characteristics and the location of oil and gas resources on leases where previous commercial discoveries have been made. A single mobile drilling unit (MODU) is proposed to be used for the exploration activities to reduce the effects associated with constructing multiple fixed offshore platforms. Generally, a MODU consists of a floating (semi-submersible) drill rig or a drill ship. MODUs are held in place with a series of anchors. Once drilling operations are completed in one location, the MODU can be moved to the next location where delineation well drilling has been approved. The project descriptions for each unit where drilling and exploration activities are proposed anticipate the use of a semi-submersible MODU.
Operators must first renew their Exploration Plans (EPs) with the BSEE prior to carrying out delineation drilling because the previously approved plans are quite outdated. Applications for renewal of these plans must include maps depicting the location of the activity to be undertaken, geologic and biological information, water and well depths, discussion of new or unusual technology to be used, potential effects of the activity with respect to the environment, and other information.
State tide and submerged lands include the area from mean high tide seaward to the three-mile boundary with the Federal OCS. Development of oil and gas resources on existing leases in this area is subject to the regulatory authority of the California State Lands Commission (SLC). The SLC is responsible for minerals leasing activities, issuance of rights-of-way, and administration of CEQA requirements for projects involving new facilities on State Tide and Submerged lands. Development of resources on State Tide and Submerged lands involving facilities at onshore locations is subject to local agency authority, including local agency administration of CEQA requirements and other land use controls.
The issuance of new oil and gas leases on State Tide and Submerged lands is currently restricted by the 1994 California Coastal Sanctuary Act, which prohibits new leasing for oil and gas extraction in State waters except: (1) in the event of a severe national energy supply interruption; or (2) when the State determines that state-owned oil or gas deposits are being drained by producing wells located upon adjacent Federal lands and the lease is in the best interests of the State. Oil and gas leases in effect as of January 1, 1995 are unaffected by this Act until such leases revert back to the State, at which time they become part of the California Coastal Sanctuary.
The California Coastal Commission (CCC) is another agency involved in the review of development on State Tide and Submerged lands. This review is accomplished in accordance with the requirements of the California Coastal Act, which establishes stringent standards of environmental protection.
While State and Federal governments have direct management control over their respective offshore jurisdictions, local governments have direct control over the permitting of onshore production-related facilities such as oil and gas processing plants, pipelines, supply bases, and marine terminals. Local resource management or planning agencies typically act as the CEQA lead agency for projects involving onshore facilities, even when these projects also involve components on State Tide and Submerged lands. In Ventura County, this function is carried out by the Planning Division of the Resource Management Agency.
Several oil and gas production “fields” (a lease is a portion of a field) exist offshore of Ventura County. These fields include the Hueneme Field, Santa Clara Field, Rincon Field, Dos Cuadras Field, Carpinteria Field and the West Montalvo Field.
There are several offshore platforms that produce oil and gas that is sent to onshore facilities in Ventura County (view platform statistics). These platforms are:
- Grace (currently not producing)
- Hillhouse and its neighbors “A”, “B”, and “C”
- Rincon Drilling Island
The majority of the West Montalvo Field is located onshore; however, the field extends offshore into State lands and are produced from onshore wells, some of which are directionally drilled under the ocean.
Production from platforms Gina and Gilda is sent to the Mandalay Onshore Separation Facility; production from Platforms Henry, Hillhouse and “A”, “B”, and “C” is sent to the Rincon Onshore Facility; production from Platforms Hogan and Houchin goes to the Pacific Offshore Operators Inc. facility in La Conchita; and the production from the Rincon Island is connected to the mainland by an elevated causeway and is stored at a facility about a mile south of the point where the causeway reaches shore.
Oil & Gas Links
- Department of Energy
- Department of Transportation
- Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
- US Department of Interior Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement
State of California