Rights of Old Oil Do Not Trump Needs of New Residents; Related CEQA Lawsuit Against LA County Set for April 5th Trial
Greenberg Glusker today announced that the Los Angeles Superior Court has upheld the right of its client, the City of Culver City, California, to regulate expansion and intensification of new oil well drilling in order to protect its residents. In an order issued March 26, 2010, Judge James Chalfant rejected a challenge by an oil company, Plains Exploration & Production Company (PXP), which sought a writ of mandate invaliding the City’s moratorium on new drilling. The City had issued the temporary ban to allow it time to develop proper regulations of new wells and to address health issues, including concerns arising out of residents’ reports of noxious fumes originating in the Inglewood oil field in 2006.
Denying the writ of mandate, the court ruled that, despite an 85-year history of oil field drilling in the Baldwin Hills area, the energy company does not have an “absolute right to drill” and the City “remains free to condition or even refuse to grant new drilling permits.” Culver City’s population has increased dramatically since oil drilling began there.
“By ruling that cities can do more to protect their citizens than just enforce fire and building regulations, the Court strengthened Culver City’s ability to balance the needs of all its constituents - residents, leaseholders, and landowners,” said Garrett L. Hanken, the Greenberg Glusker Partner who was lead trial counsel for the City. Hanken’s extensive experience in environmental and land use litigation includes resolving politically sensitive disputes among real estate developers, government entities and regulatory authorities, and local residents.
Other Greenberg Glusker attorneys who participated in the mandate proceeding include David Cranston, who chairs the Firm’s Environmental Group and Climate Change & Sustainability Group and Sedina L. Banks.
Cranston is lead counsel for Culver City in an upcoming related California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) challenge to the environmental impact report (EIR) certified by Los Angeles County in connection with PXP’s plans for new drilling in the portion of the oil field within the County’s jurisdiction. The matter is scheduled for trial on April 5, 2010, and will also be heard by Judge Chalfant. Culver City is joined in the lawsuit by several community activist groups, Community Health Councils, Inc., National Resources Defense Council, Citizens Coalition For a Safe Community, and Concerned Citizens of South Central Los Angeles.
“The issues involved in the Culver City lawsuits - vested rights, old uses versus new urbanization, conflicts between property rights and health and safety claims - are tensions facing many cities today. Greenberg Glusker’s Environmental Litigation Group plays a leading role in these cases that are determining the future quality of life in local communities,” said Greenberg Glusker Managing Partner Norman H. Levine. “We congratulate the entire Greenberg Glusker team for this significant victory.”