Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

For Immediate Release


Press Release

In Ominous Sign for Country, Big Oil Attempts to Hijack Democracy in Central California County

Industry pours $8 million into brazen attempt to revoke common-sense environmental law

Big Oil is investing millions of dollars to overturn democracy in a small county on California’s Central Coast. The matter will come to a head in a monumental but so-far largely ignored Ballot Measure vote on June 7.

This hyperlocal but nationally relevent fight is over Measures A and B, two ordinances passed by Ventura County’s Board of Supervisors in 2020. Those measures aimed to close a loophole that allows oil and gas operators to drill new wells under the rules of antiquated permits that do not require the environmental reviews or safety measures that apply to new permits.

Within days of the Board of Supervisors’ decision, Aera Energy – jointly owned and operated by Shell and ExxonMobil – contributed nearly $1.5 million to a new political action committee, Working Families for Jobs and Energy Independence, to fight the ordinances. The PAC gathered enough signatures to put the loophole closures back on the ballot in January 2021, essentially shutting down the Supervisors’ regulations until the voters decide the issue.

Since then, Aera and other oil giants have flooded Ventura County with $8 million worth of advertisements, roadside signs and billboards. The Western States Petroleum Association has become the de facto mouthpiece for the oil industry’s Ventura County campaign, framing the local election in international terms: Stop the Energy Shutdown.

That misleading narrative is bad enough, but the risk is that the industry money will constitute a democracy shutdown. As UC San Diego political scientist Thad Kousser put it, “Direct democracy, like our representative government, is…vulnerable.  We have unequal access to the ballot right now. It’s no longer the people’s process.” 


Food & Water Watch mobilizes regular people to build political power to move bold and uncompromised solutions to the most pressing food, water, and climate problems of our time. We work to protect people’s health, communities, and democracy from the growing destructive power of the most powerful economic interests.

Dems Threaten to Subpoena FTI Consulting Over 'Blanket Refusal' to Provide Info on Fossil Fuel Work

"FTI's refusal to cooperate with this congressional inquiry shows that they have something to hide, which will reveal the dangerous ways agencies like theirs have promoted fossil fuel greenwash and misinformation," said the Clean Creatives campaign's leader.

Jessica Corbett ·

Bad Day for DeSantis as 'Stop WOKE Act' Hit With Injunction, Lawsuit

"If Florida truly believes we live in a post-racial society, then let it make its case," a federal judge wrote in blocking part of the controversial law. "But it cannot win the argument by muzzling its opponents."

Brett Wilkins ·

US Judge Says Mar-a-Lago Affidavit 'Can Be Unsealed' With Redactions

"This is going to be a considered, careful process, where everybody's rights, the government's and the media's, will be protected," declared U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart.

Jessica Corbett ·

Federal Judge Orders Starbucks to Rehire Fired Union Organizers in Memphis

"It was a ruling in favor of what's right," said one member of the Memphis Seven. "We knew from day one that we were going to win this, it just took time."

Brett Wilkins ·

Activists Arrested While Protesting 'Dirty Pipeline Deal' Outside Schumer's Office

"Sen. Schumer is sacrificing frontline communities and our clean energy future, all to placate a coal baron," said one organizer, referring to the majority leader's side agreement with Sen. Joe Manchin.

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo