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20 Feb 2019

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 2019, 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