Appeal Challenges Dangerous Oil Drilling in Santa Paula Canyon

VENTURA, Calif.— Three conservation groups today 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the Ventura County Board of Supervisors approved the oil wells on a 3-2 vote in 2015, relying in large part on an outdated environmental impact report prepared in 1978.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.

A Ventura County Superior Court in April 2018 ruled in favor of the oil company and Ventura County. Today’s appeal, filed in the Second District Court of Appeals in Ventura, seeks review of that decision.

In their original lawsuit, the groups argue 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 alleges 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.

The lawsuit 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.”

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One Response to Appeal Challenges Dangerous Oil Drilling in Santa Paula Canyon

  1. Gary Alstot July 28, 2018 at 9:47 am

    It would better serve the health of Santa Paula Canyon to close it to the recreational use that has so thoroughly trashed it and open it to the oil operators alone who would tread more easily than the current invasive hoards.


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