State lawmakers will for the first time publicly enter into a Ventura controversy surrounding a gas compressor site on Saturday.
State Senator Monique Limón, D-Santa Barbara, and Assemblyman Steve Bennett, D-Ventura, host a community meeting about the Southern California Gas Company’s plan to expand and upgrade several gas compressors on the west side of Ventura. The project has upset neighbours, environmentalists and local elected officials.
“I think the number one element that we hope to accomplish is to provide the community with the ability to hear from different agencies in terms of permitting and overseeing a particular project,” Limón said.
Representatives from the California Public Utilities Commission, the State Department of Toxic Substances Control, and the Ventura County Air Pollution Control District are expected to attend and give presentations. A question-and-answer session with the public will take place afterwards.
But opponents of the project do not expect much from the meeting. They want a gas compressor environmental impact report and don’t think they’ll get it.
“Without doing the EIR health assessment, none of our questions will get a serious answer. Nothing will satisfy us or make us feel safe until this is done,” said Tomás Rebecchi , Central Coast organizing manager for the national non-profit Food & Water. Action.
Food & Water Action is an affiliate organization of Food & Water Watch. Rebecchi lives a few blocks from the gas compressor site with her family and two children on the Westside of Ventura.
Limón said it was unclear if the agencies could promise an environmental report at the meeting.
“We have EIRs for different types of projects, but my understanding is that state agencies have complied with regulations regarding when to request or not to request EIRs,” Limón said. “So I think it will be very important for these agencies to hear the reasons that warrant an EIR when the regulations don’t require it.”
The facility at 1555 North Olive St. has been in operation since 1923. The gas company wants replace three gas compressors built in the 1980s with four new ones with more power. The company also wants to build a new warehouse and an office building. An existing office building and warehouse are to be demolished.
In 2019, the California Public Utilities Commission approved the plan.
SoCalGas officials said they would watch the presentation virtually but not participate. Environmentalists do not want them to participate.
“We said no,” Rebecchi said. “It’s a waste of time. They had their own meetings where they didn’t answer questions.”
The facility was cited in a 2017 NASA study as a “super emitter” of methane. Methane is a very powerful greenhouse gas. The NASA study prompted SoCalGas to fix the methane leak.
The city weighs
Municipal authorities have also joined the fight. The city council passed a resolution in May to pressure state agencies to reconsider the gas compressor station. Mayor Sofia Rubalcava wrote a July 20 letter to Governor Gavin Newsom asking him to stop the modernization and expansion of the gas compressor.
In the July letter, she said gas company officials had cited 10 unplanned gas leaks since March 1, 2017 that had caused 500,000 cubic feet of gas in the neighborhood and that officials were concerned.
“We believe this cannot be good for the neighbors,” according to the letter.
The letter also pointed out that there are thousands of residents located within half a mile of the facility and the nearly 400 children – 90% who identify as Latinx – who are enrolled in the school. on the other side of the street. The gas plant is located across from EP Foster Elementary School and the Boys & Girls Club.
On Wednesday, Rubalcava said she hadn’t heard from Newsom, but she understands it could take some time with the fires, recall elections and other state emergencies underway.
“That’s why we hope that through this meeting we can speak to people who have his ear so that they can also reach him,” she said.
At Saturday’s meeting, Limón said the goal was to share information and listen.
“As state legislators, we don’t have the power to go into a state agency and tell them what to do. Our ability to influence what state agencies do really comes through the legislative process. “, said Limón.
On August 5, the California Public Utilities Commission asked SoCalGas by letter to answer numerous questions requesting more information about the methane leak, alternate locations for the gas compressor, and costs of potential relocation sites. The commission requested that the responses be posted online before the project could move forward.
SoCalGas Answers were posted on the site this week. According to the gas company, NASA identified the methane emissions in October 2017 and the repair was carried out by tightening several threaded fittings on the station’s metering equipment.
SoCalGas identified the La Goleta storage field in Santa Barbara as an alternate location, but said it did not have the same advantages as the Ventura site. SoCalGas said it will continue to evaluate other sites.
A relocation cost had not been made, according to SoCalGas’ response.
The CPUC has also asked SoCalGas to hold a public forum before moving forward.
“We appreciate the Commission’s continued advice on this matter and are working to achieve the objectives set out in its letter,” according to the gas company.
Wes Woods II covers West County for the Ventura County Star. Contact him at [email protected], 805-437-