A Tour of the Sespe Oil Field

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By: Matt Guthrie 

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In late October, I had the fortune of joining several community leaders on a tour of the Sespe Oil Field courtesy of Seneca Resources Corporation. Seneca is a one hundred year old company that has operated in Ventura County for more than twenty five years. They are the 7th largest oil producer in California with operations in Ventura, Kern and Fresno Counties.

The Sespe oil field is tucked back in the hills north of Fillmore in a spot mostly unseen by County residents going about their daily lives. Seneca has operated in the Sespe area since 1987 as part of an industry that helps sustain more than 8,000 jobs and con¬tributes over $4 billion annually to Ventura County.

The people that work in the Sespe field take safety and stewardship extremely seriously. Many were born and raised in nearby areas and consider it a privilege to work in the beautiful mountains they consider home. Seneca prides itself on meeting the high standards of California’s strict regulations through compliance and transparency in their operation.

Seneca is the only oil and gas production company operating on Federal Land in California (Los Padres National Forest). And some of their leases are within the California Condor Sanctuary. On the tour it was evident that protection of the endangered condors is critical. Signs are posted about keeping the area free of “microtrash” (hazardous if eaten by young condors), devices are affixed to keep the birds off the pump jacks and regular monitoring is performed by wildlife protection agencies. In 2012, Seneca was named Operator of the Year by California’s Bureau of Land Management, a testament to their reputation as a good operator.

Currently, Ventura County is considering Seneca’s application for the modification of an existing CUP to deepen four existing wells. The project includes a ministerial zoning permit. The item is likely to come before the Board of Supervisors in early 2016 and CoLAB will monitor the issue as it moves forward to encourage fairness and consistency in the process.