Inside Aera
Responsibility, Environment May 14, 2019

Stormwater runoff protection plan increases safety and reduces slope erosion

Employees and contractors at Aera Energy understand the importance of stormwater management to ensure both safe operations and safe communities. The company has a knowledgeable team in place to ensure everyone remains committed to Aera’s safety goals.

Construction activities and other efforts associated with oil and gas facilities must comply with many different requirements including how stormwater is managed. Much of those requirements pertain to environmental protection and safety, which – at Aera Energy – are already top priorities.

Nearly 10 years ago, Aera obtained a California Construction General Permit for its operations at the Ventura Production Unit. The permit applies to ground disturbance construction operations at the lease, like modifying and creating new well pads, installing flow lines, demolishing structures and other construction-related activities. The general permit requires a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) that outlines best management practices for preventing pollution and stormwater runoff and controlling sediment from these activities. 

“Stormwater management is so important here in Ventura because of our unique geographic environment,” said Christopher Logan, Aera’s environmental advisor. “We are surrounded by fairly steep hills and ridges which drain to waterways containing sensitive species and habitat. Although there is a fair amount of natural erosion that already takes place during the rainy season, we work hard to minimize impacts from our construction sites.”

As part of the SWPPP, the team conducts weekly inspections and samples runoff to ensure best management practices are functioning as intended. All monitoring is then reported to the State Water Resources Control Board. 

At one point, concerns regarding the runoff plan were brought to the company’s attention by a local non-governmental organization. Upon thorough review, the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board required an important additional assessment. With extensive internal planning and training, working closely with the Ventura Production Unit’s stormwater contractor, and communicating effectively with the water board, Aera now has an even further streamlined method of complying with the permit that is amenable to all parties.

Many of the company’s employees and contractors have received thorough stormwater training and are well-versed on establishing and maintaining best practices for preventing pollution caused by stormwater. Not only has this improved efficiency when assessing what works and what doesn’t for different sites, it also highlighted the dedication of Aera’s employees and the company’s earnest desire to implement safe practices and be a good neighbor. 

Anne Simpson, a California native and avid outdoor enthusiast, is a project manager and water quality specialist with Aera contractor TetraTech. With her breadth of knowledge in stormwater management, Simpson and her team played a critical role in creating an efficient stormwater runoff prevention plan that complied with regulations and maximized environmental and community benefits.

“Properly implemented best management practices not only improve water quality,” Simpson said, “but they also increase the safety of everyone by helping to keep sediment off paved roads, reduce erosion of slopes, decrease the amount of water on the roads during rain, and effectively reduce the lease’s maintenance requirements in the future. It’s responsibility in action.”

Aera’s responsiveness and motivation to meet the permit requirements has created a safer work environment and an amicable relationship with the local non-governmental organization. They were invited to see the lease improvements firsthand and have since touted this as a great success for the community.

Additionally, the LA Water Board has performed three different inspections of the lease and found that the permit requirements are being met. Aera’s thinking and acting like a good neighbor, diligence and leading the way in safety and stormwater best management practices were all keys to success.

“Environmental stewardship and community trust are essential for us in Ventura,” Logan said. “To be able to operate safely and under the highest environmental standards, we understand how important it is to lead by example and show how stormwater compliance can be managed effectively. It has not only become an integral part of everyday business but is also just the right thing to do.”