California Independent Petroleum Association lawsuit (re change in drilling permissions, USA)

On 26 September 2016, following the adoption of new oil drilling requirements by the city of Los Angeles, the California Independent Petroleum Association (CIPA), an association representing hundreds of oil and gas producers, filed a countersuit against the city, youth groups from South Los Angeles and Wilmington, as well as the Center for Biological Diversity. The new drilling requirements were adopted in response to a lawsuit brought by the two youth groups and the Center, and were designed to ensure compliance with state environmental mandates and to end racially discriminatory treatment of the city’s vulnerable communities.

 CIPA argues that the new requirements raise drillers’ costs without due process. Attorneys representing the youth groups and the Center argued that this lawsuit is “a classic example of a retaliatory strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) suit that is designed to intimidate the groups and violates state law”. 

 On 10 April 2017, the groups filed an anti-SLAPP motion under California’s anti-SLAPP statute and CIPA filed a motion seeking $700,000 in attorneys’ fees and sanctions from the city and the groups. Both motions were denied by the Los Angeles Superior Court (first instance). CIPA appealed the decision. On 7 December 2018, during oral arguments before a California Court of Appeal, CIPA stated that “the environmental advocacy groups and the city were entwined in the new regulations and worked together to author a zoning agreement” without consulting the oil producers. On 15 February 2018, the California Court of Appeal reversed the lower court decision and dismissed CIPA’s lawsuit.

The initial legal proceedings, brought by the youth groups and the Center in 2015, alleged a pattern of environmental violations and racial discrimination in the city’s oil-project approvals. For example, by placing oil wells close to schools and homes without taking time to consider the health and environmental impacts in poor neighborhoods, which are disproportionately black and Latino. While this suit was pending, the city’s planning department decided to adopt the new oil drilling requirements. On 28 September 2016, in light of the new requirements, the youth groups and the Center settled their suit against the city. 

News items:

Appeals Court Rejects Big Oil's Lawsuit Against Youth Groups, LA”, Central Valley, 18 Feb 2019

LA Neighborhoods Gain Ground in War on Oil Wells”, Courthouse News Service, 15 Feb 2019

After Los Angeles Youth Sued City for Discriminatory Drilling Practices, the Oil Industry Sued Back”, 3 Apr 2017

Center for Biological Diversity:

Court Rejects Oil Industry's Retaliatory Lawsuit Against L.A. Youth Groups”, 15 Feb 2019 

"Court to Hear L.A. Youths’ Challenge to Oil Industry’s Retaliatory SLAPP Suit", 6 Dec 2018

Court documents:

Court of Appeal of the State of California, Second Appellate District, Youth for Environmental Justice v. City of Los Angeles & California Independent Petroleum Association, 15 Feb 2019

Court of Appeal of the State of California, Second Appellate District, Youth for Environmental Justice; South Central Youth Leadership; Center for Biological Diversity & City of Los Angeles v. California Independent Petroleum Association, 12 Sep 2018

 
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Article
18 February 2019

Appeals Court Rejects Big Oil's Lawsuit Against Youth Groups, LA

Author: Dan Bacher, Central Valley

In a victory for environmental justice, a California appeals court on February 15 dismissed the California Independent Petroleum Associations’s (CIPA) lawsuit against youth organizations from South Los Angeles and Wilmington, the Center for Biological Diversity and the city of Los Angeles…The California 2nd District Court of Appeals reversed a previous order by the L.A. Superior Court denying the special motions by the city and the nonprofits to strike the oil industry lawsuit…

The California Independent Petroleum Association (CIPA) filed the suit after the groups won protections against neighborhood oil drilling from the city, according to a press release from the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), the South Central Youth Leadership Coalition and Youth for Environmental Justice…The youth groups’ attorneys filed an anti-SLAPP motion, calling CIPA’s lawsuit “a classic example of a retaliatory strategic lawsuit against public participation” (“SLAPP Suit”) that violates California law. In an unexpected ruling, the L.A. Superior Court denied the motion. 

The ruling by [the 2ndDistrict Court of Appeals] reversed that decision, siding with the groups and dismissing the Petroleum Association’s suit as having “no probability of prevailing.” “Because Memorandum 133 does not expand the City’s discretionary authority to make decisions about drilling, redrilling or modification of existing conditions, CIPA cannot show the measure implicates any property rights of its owners,” Judge Green ruled. “Without such an impact, CIPA has no probability of prevailing on its claim that due process requires voiding the settlement between the City and the Nonprofits and compelling further litigation of Nonprofits’ case to a termination of merits.” Judge Green also said the decision “obliterates any claim CIPA might have for attorney fees and its appeal of the order is accordingly moot." CIPA had requested nearly three-quarters of a million dollars in attorneys’ fees from the city and groups…

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Item
15 February 2019

Court Rejects Oil Industry's Retaliatory Lawsuit Against L.A. Youth Groups

Author: Center for Biological Diversity on Common Dreams

A California appeals court [on 15 February 2019] dismissed an oil-industry lawsuit against youth groups from South Los Angeles and Wilmington, the Center for Biological Diversity and the city of Los Angeles. The California Independent Petroleum Association, which represents Exxon, Chevron and hundreds of crude-oil and natural-gas producers and related entities statewide, filed the suit after the groups won protections against neighborhood oil drilling from the city…

Oil and gas drilling releases toxic chemicals known to cause a range of health problems, from asthma and headaches to a higher risk of cancer. Drilling sites in South Los Angeles and Wilmington, neighborhoods that are predominantly black and Latino, are on average hundreds of feet closer to homes, schools and playgrounds than drilling sites in neighborhoods with larger numbers of white residents… 

Today’s decision…reversed [previous decisions], siding with the groups and dismissing the Petroleum Association’s suit as having “no probability of prevailing.” “I’ll never let the oil industry bully me into silence,” said Briannda Escobedo of Youth for Environmental Justice. “This win shows what happens when communities come together to stand up to polluters. It gives me hope to continue fighting for the healthy neighborhoods we deserve...”

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Article
15 February 2019

LA Neighborhoods Gain Ground in War on Oil Wells

Author: Nathan Solis, Courthouse News Service

Ashley Hernandez often woke up with a bloody nose as a child. Her parents thought it was heat related, but she also had the same constant headaches and breathing problems as other students at her school in the Los Angeles suburb of Wilmington. More than a decade later, Hernandez says the culprit was always just down the street from her bedroom: An oil well near a Little League baseball diamond and surrounded by homes…With over 10 million LA County residents living near 5,000 active oil and gas wells, residents are exposed to a variety of chemicals and pollutants. But in a strange twist, a group of residents living near drill sites were sued by the oil industry.

It began when residents sued the city of Los Angeles in 2015, claiming drill permits were issued at a high rate in poor neighborhoods without proper review of impacts to the community. The city’s actions, the residents said, amounted to a form of environmental racism.The following year, just as the parties reached a settlement, the oil trade group California Independent Petroleum Association (CIPA) that sought to join the lawsuit filed a cross complaint claiming industry interests would be impacted. A youth organizer for the environmental nonprofit Communities for a Better Environment (CBE), Hernandez said residents are being sued because they were able to make real progress over the oil industry’s practices…

CIPA declined to be interviewed for this article, but in a statement the trade group’s CEO Rock Zierman said California has some of the strictest environmental rules in the country and is not benefitting from the “energy boom” other parts of the country are experiencing. If left unchecked the state’s demand for energy will be met by “foreign imports” that do not have the state’s best interests in mind, Zierman said...

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Article
7 December 2018

USA: Environmental groups to challenge oil industry countersuit over requirements for drilling applications

Author: Center for Biological Diversity

"Court to Hear L.A. Youths’ Challenge to Oil Industry’s Retaliatory SLAPP Suit", 6 Dec 2018

Attorneys representing youth groups from South Los Angeles and Wilmington and the Center for Biological Diversity will argue in a California appeals court Friday that an oil-industry lawsuit against the groups is “a classic example of a retaliatory strategic lawsuit against public participation”...

In 2016 the city of Los Angeles adopted new requirements for drilling applications and settled a lawsuit brought by the groups that alleged a pattern of environmental review violations and racial discrimination in the city’s oil-project approvals.  The California Independent Petroleum Association then countersued the groups and the city...

In 2015 Youth for Environmental Justice and the South Central Youth Leadership Coalition, joined by the Center for Biological Diversity, sued the city of Los Angeles for rubber-stamping oil projects in communities of color.  Both sides reached a settlement in 2016 after the city adopted new requirements for drilling applications to ensure compliance with state environmental review rules and protect vulnerable communities.  The California Independent Petroleum Association, which represents hundreds of crude-oil and natural-gas producers and related entities statewide, including oil giants Exxon and Chevron, then countersued the city and groups...

The groups filed an anti-SLAPP motion, which was denied by the L.A. Superior Court...

The California 2nd District Court of Appeal will hear oral arguments...

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Article
3 April 2017

After Los Angeles Youth Sued City for Discriminatory Drilling Practices, the Oil Industry Sued Back

Author: Ashley Braun, Desmog

Los Angeles is a city built on oil, and even today more than a thousand derricks still pump it from the shallow reserves beneath the city…In LA, the number of residents living less than a mile from an oil well is in the tens of thousands. But how close you live to a drilling site may depend on the color of your skin and socioeconomic status, placing communities of color disproportionately at risk, according to a lawsuit brought by three LA youth groups against the City of LA…

The lawsuit claimed that the City’s pattern of reviewing — and “rubberstamping” — applications to open new oil wells and drill again in old ones was not only in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which requires environmental impact reviews and public input on projects which could cause environmental harm, it also unfairly put the health of communities of color at risk.

Instead of each application undergoing a case-by-case review of the potential environmental, health, and safety impacts, the City of LA was regularly granting exemptions from these reviews “as rule of law,” according to Gladys Limón, an attorney for Communities for a Better Environment…

Limón says that this information surfaced after communities in areas affected by expanded drilling activity started talking to each other and realized “the same sorts of patterns that they were experiencing were true for other communities.” At that point, her organization began digging through city files and investigating whether that might be the case…

The community is afflicted by one of the highest cancer rates in the southern part of the state. Oil and gas drilling is associated with pollution known to have numerous health impacts, ranging from asthma and headaches to a higher risk of cancer in children…

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