For Immediate Release, July 17, 2023
Liz Jones, (310) 365-9281, firstname.lastname@example.org
California Regulator Halts New Oil, Gas Wells Following Lawsuit
Permits Revoked After Suit Alleges Faulty Environmental Review
LOS ANGELES— A judge approved an agreement today to end litigation over approvals for 17 new oil and gas wells, some near homes and schools, in Los Angeles and Kern counties. The agreement comes after the state oil and gas regulator cancelled and rescinded approvals for the new wells.
The Center for Biological Diversity sued the California Geologic Energy Management Division, or CalGEM, in December. That lawsuit challenged CalGEM’s deficient environmental review for nine new oil and gas wells in Santa Clarita near residential neighborhoods, Golden Valley High School, and Placerita Canyon State Park, as well as for eight new wells in the Elk Hills oilfield outside Bakersfield.
“Halting these wells is the right thing to do, but they shouldn’t have been approved in the first place,” said Liz Jones, an attorney at the Center’s Climate Law Institute. “We shouldn’t have to sue state regulators to make them properly consider the health and environmental consequences of oil and gas projects.”
The lawsuit alleged that CalGEM violated the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, when it approved the wells because it did not comply with the law’s requirement to fully disclose, analyze and mitigate to the extent feasible the harms resulting from a project.
In both instances the agency relied on outdated studies from the 1990s and didn’t include new information about the climate and public-health harms of oil drilling. In the case of the Santa Clarita wells, CalGEM ignored the fact that homes and a school had been built near the wells, increasing community health risks. The approved wells also exceeded the number of wells originally evaluated in the decades-old reviews.
CalGEM continues to issue oil and gas permits with no meaningful analysis, despite being sued by the Center in 2021 for failing to comply with the Act. The Center sued CalGEM again in May for approving about two dozen new oil and gas wells in Los Angeles and San Luis Obispo counties close to homes, beaches and important habitat without conducting the required environmental review. CalGEM has also issued more than 1,000 “rework” and redrilling permits this year with no apparent environmental review — many of them near neighborhoods.
“Pulling back these permits shows CalGEM knows how to do the right thing under pressure,” said Jones. “We urge the agency to change its oil-well review practices across the board. In the meantime, we’ll keep holding it accountable, because a stable climate and the health of frontline communities are on the line.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.