Oil ordinance comes back to board Tuesday

In this file photo, oil drills previously operating in southern San Benito County are shown.

San Benito County Board supervisors are set to review proposed amendments to the oil and gas well ordinance Tuesday.

Planning staff, after working with officials and residents over concerns of potential hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the county have developed the draft ordinance.

The new draft ordinance includes expanded oil drilling plan requirements, requirements and disclosure of hydraulic fracturing, additional quality monitoring and protection requirements, updated fees and other updated conditions, and constraints for protection of the environment.

The planning staff removed some redundancies in the ordinance and added the following items:

• Disposal of “drilling ejecta” and recovered water should be addressed.

• Ability to hire experts through mitigation fees

• Require disclosure of chemicals used at time of application

• Notification of change of any kind (depth of well, method of extraction, ownership)

• Baseline water testing is required and future water testing should be specific for the chemicals they are using.

• Bond, letter of credit, or suitable surety should be tied to the owner of the mineral/oil rights, not the property owner.

• Compliance with all state, federal and local laws and regulations

• Interval of inspections

The supervisors’ agenda can be viewed online (www.cosb.us), with a copy of the full draft ordinance attached as well as letters of comment. One letter from Robert Frusetta, of Tres Pinos, urges the supervisors not to make changes to the ordinance.

“I am one of the many local mineral and surface owners who will be adversely affected if these hysteria-driven, unreasonable regulations are adopted,” he wrote in a letter dated Jan. 14. “And, unlike many of the protesters who instigated these new regulations, I actually live and pay taxes in San Benito County.”

The issue of oil and gas drilling came to the board of supervisors when a group of residents from Aromas became concerned about potential hydraulic fracturing in their community on the western side of the county. An oil company did a study last summer of the region. Community members formed a group called Aromas CARES.

Jerry Anderson, of the Conservation Committee of California Oil and Gas Producers, sent a letter to Tim Kustic, the state oil and gas supervisor with the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources – and cc’d the county on the letter.

According to his letter the Conservation Committee of California Oil and Gas Producers at the request of the California Independent Petroleum Association put together a report that compares and contrasts the draft code proposed in the fall of 2012 to existing DOGGR statues and regulations.

“The CCCOGP analysis demonstrates that the proposed San Benito oil code drafted in the Fall of 2012 is in conflict with, duplicates, and could potentially impair the mandated duties and obligations of DOGGR,” the letter states. The draft ordinance originally reviewed by the supervisors in September has since been updated.

The Center for Biological Diversity, an environmental advocacy group, sent a letter in support of the ordinance updates.

“The county is right to be concerned about fracking, which is a dangerous method of stimulating the production of oil or gas from a well,” the letter reads. “Fracking threatens both human health and the environment. While industry claims that companies have been safely fracking wells in California for decades, modern fracking is new, different and more perilous.”

Leave your comments