by Beverly Bigger

Among the many false and misleading claims made by advocates for Measure A and B in Ventura County, some of the most egregious have to do with water quality.

This is nothing new. For years, those aiming to shut down local oil and gas production have rejected scientific studies and created narratives to scare voters into erroneously believing aquifers are at risk.

The facts, of course, tell a different story. Local oil and gas production does not put Ventura County aquifers at risk. And it’s not just the oil and gas producers who say so.

Experts with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) monitored groundwater under the Oxnard Oil Field for years and found no evidence that energy production operations have impacted the aquifers. Their study, published in June 2021 in coordination with the State Water Board’s groundwater monitoring program, confirmed that the water in the aquifers complies with all state and federal drinking water standards.

As the State Water Board stated at the time: “A USGS groundwater study near the Oxnard Oil Field has found no evidence of hydrocarbon-bearing formation water mixing into overlying groundwater aquifers.”

As reported in the Ventura County Star, other experts who reviewed the USGS study say unequivocally that the aquifers are safe, and oil and gas activities have not led to any water contamination. In fact, the State Water Board has stated that it has “no immediate plans to do any additional sampling at Oxnard” given the USGS study’s confirmation of safe water quality.

Those pushing Measures A and B are ignoring all of these facts — and worse, denying the science outright.

After the USGS study explicitly confirmed there was “no evidence” of oilfield activity impacting groundwater in Ventura County, the same groups now pushing for Measures A and B began rejecting the science and the experts behind the analysis. These groups accused USGS and State Water Board of “gross misrepresentation at best” and “an outright lie at worst.”

Ventura County voters must stand up for facts and science. Those who continue to use false narratives to scare the public cannot be trusted to tell the truth on important policy questions like Measures A and B.

Of course, the misrepresentations from Measure A and B proponents do not end with debunked narratives on water quality. The entire campaign for the new zoning policies depends on a false premise that oil and gas operations are not tightly regulated.

Again, the facts are clear. Ventura County’s oil and gas is produced under the strongest regulations in the world.

Multiple layers of oversight by qualified engineering and geoscience professionals at local, state, and federal agencies ensure all operations meet or exceed strict regulations to protect the environment, public health, and worker safety. These agencies have the authority to revoke permits and shut down production if local producers do not meet strict operating requirements.

It is bizarre to see Measure A and B advocates claim to be concerned about the regulation of oil and gas production, considering their proposals would scrap this expert-driven, science-based oversight and transfer regulatory authority to local politicians.

That’s right: if passed, Measures A and B would give the Board of Supervisors new and unlimited powers to override state and federal agencies, ignore scientific experts, and shut down oil and gas production in Ventura County at will. This amounts to an unprecedented and dangerous power grab by local politicians.

Perhaps Measure A and B advocates must rely on scare tactics because the facts simply aren’t on their side. Policies have consequences, and the reality is that Measures A and B would unnecessarily shut down local oil production without cause — killing local jobs, eliminating critical tax revenues, increasing dependence on foreign oil, and raising costs for consumers and businesses.  

Beverly Bigger is a second-generation farmer and rancher and Ventura resident. She is a board member of various agricultural groups in Ventura County.