Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, July 24, 2018

Contacts:  Jeff Kuyper, Los Padres ForestWatch, (805) 617-4610 x 1, jeff@LPFW.org
Ileene Anderson, Center for Biological Diversity, (323) 490-0223, ianderson@biologicaldiversity.org 
Kimberly Rivers, Citizens for Responsible Oil & Gas, (805) 727-1393, ed@cfrog.org
Amy Minteer, Chatten-Brown & Carstens, (310) 798-2400, acm@cbcearthlaw.com

Appeal Challenges Dangerous Oil Drilling in Santa Paula Canyon

VENTURA, Calif.— Three conservation groups yesterday appealed a decision by a Ventura County Superior Court judge allowing 19 new oil wells and continued operation of 17 existing wells along the Santa Paula Canyon Trail, a popular hiking trail that serves as a gateway to waterfalls, swimming holes, backcountry campsites and endangered species habitat in the Los Padres National Forest.

Despite objections from nearly 1,000 hikers and local residents, as well as overwhelming expert scientific testimony, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors approved the oil wells on a 3-2 vote in 2015, relying in large part on an outdated environmental impact report prepared in 1978.

Los Padres ForestWatch, the Center for Biological Diversity and Citizens for Responsible Oil & Gas then filed suit in Ventura County Superior Court over the county’s failure to conduct a new study of the environmental risks of the project.

In April 2018 a Ventura County Superior Court ruled in favor of the oil company and Ventura County. The groups’ appeal, filed in the 2nd District Court of Appeals in Ventura, seeks review of that decision.

In their original lawsuit, the groups asserted that the county failed to evaluate and reduce significant noise, visual and public-safety impacts that oil drilling expansion would cause to hikers on the trail. The county further neglected to fully consider the risks posed by oil spills from a pipeline directly above steelhead habitat in Santa Paula Creek, contaminants draining from the drill site into the creek and California condors that are nesting in the canyon for the first time in more than a half-century. 

The lawsuit also argues that the county failed to enforce mitigation measures and conditions of approval that had originally been placed on the project to lessen its potential environmental damage. It urges the court to place the drilling project on hold until an adequate review is conducted to fully disclose all of the risks and damages of drilling.

In addition to Ventura County, the suit also names Carbon California, the operator of 17 existing wells in Santa Paula Canyon, as a “real party in interest.”

The groups are represented by the law firm of Chatten-Brown & Carstens of Los Angeles.

Statements From Appellants
“Santa Paula Canyon is one of the crown jewels of Ventura County, with thousands of residents and visitors enjoying this wilderness destination each year,” said Jeff Kuyper, executive director of Los Padres ForestWatch, a nonprofit conservation organization based in Santa Barbara that works to protect the Los Padres National Forest. “More drilling here will ruin the outdoor recreation experience while reducing local tourism dollars and harming local businesses.”

“With only outdated safeguards in place, Santa Paula Creek, the Santa Clara River and adjacent lands are at risk of dangerous oil spills,” said Ileene Anderson, senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “Failure to protect these beautiful places from oil-industry pollution and accidents will spell disaster for wildlife, including endangered California condors, as well as downstream farms and homes.”

“Our appeal will ensure the correct standard of environmental review is applied to minimize the negative economic and environmental impacts of spills, leaks, emissions and other negative impacts of improperly processed and oil and gas permits,” said Kimberly Rivers, CFROG executive director.

“The county failed to disclose the many significant impacts associated with drilling new oil wells adjacent to a popular hiking trail and endangered species habitat,” said Amy Minteer, a partner at Chatten-Brown & Carstens, the firm representing the conservation groups. “A subsequent environmental impact report is required to thoroughly analyze and mitigate those impacts before this project can move forward.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

www.biologicaldiversity.org

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