BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — The 5th District Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that a 2015 oil and gas permitting ordinance in Kern County was based on a flawed study and violated the state's environmental law.
In November 2015, the Kern County Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance to streamline the permitting process for the new oil and gas wells and certified an environmental impact report as compliant with the California Environmental Quality Act. The ordinance allowed oil companies to permit wells based on that single report, rather than individual EIRs for each well.
The court of appeals ordered the environmental impact report and the ordinance be set aside until the county can demonstrate it complies with the law.
In response to the ruling, Kern County Chief Administrative Officer Ryan Alsop said his office is reviewing and considering the courts full ruling.
The appeal was brought by Committee for a Better Arvin, Committee for a Better Shafter, and Greenfield Walking Group, represented by the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, together with the Center for Biological Diversity, and Sierra Club, who was represented by Earthjustice. King and Gardiner Farms, represented by Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger, also appealed and the two cases were consolidated.
“This is an important victory for Kern County residents," said Caroline Farrell, executive director of the Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment. “Kern County residents deserve to know the impacts from oil and gas operations on their community so that we can reduce those impacts and protect our health and environment.”
The California Department of Conservation issued the following statement: "The Department of Conservation is reviewing the opinion in King and Gardiner Farms, LLC v. County of Kern. Importantly, the decision states that existing permits are not affected by this ruling, and the current permit evaluation system will remain in place for 30 days. During that time, DOC will determine appropriate next steps to ensure that any CalGEM approvals include appropriate CEQA compliance. CalGEM will remain focused on providing full and fair oversight of oil and gas production while ensuring protection of public health, safety, and the environment."