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Indybay Feature
Mon Jul 28 2014
California Court Rules Against Dangerous Oil Development Near Pinnacles National Park
Project Could Launch New Oil Field in Condor Habitat, Waste Millions of Gallons of Water
Citing concerns about water use and contamination, a Monterey County Superior Court judge has ruled that San Benito County unlawfully approved a dangerous new oil-development project near Pinnacles National Park that could result in hundreds of wells being drilled in important agricultural and wildlife habitat in the Salinas Valley watershed. As the judge’s ruling notes, “There are numerous opportunities for toxic spills to occur that the County has apparently not contemplated.”

The ruling comes in response to a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity challenging the Indian Wells project, which would use cyclic steam injection, a water-intensive and polluting form of oil extraction. The court agreed that San Benito County unlawfully failed to consider development of the oil field beyond the initial 15 “pilot” wells in the challenged approval as required by the California Environmental Quality Act. The court also found that the county failed to properly analyze the huge water usage, water pollution risks, greenhouse gas emissions, and threats to the California condor — even from the initial 15 well approval.

The project site drains to the Salinas River, an important source of drinking and irrigation water for some of the world’s most productive farmland. The site is also important foraging habitat for the California condor, a critically imperiled species with a population of only about 430 individuals. “This legal victory helps protect California’s water, wildlife and climate from dangerous new oil development,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “It makes no sense to fast-track dirty and risky new oil projects when it’s painfully obvious we have to shift to clean energy sources to respond to the climate crisis.”

Read More | Center for Biological Diversity

Previous Coverage: Lawsuit Targets San Benito County's Approval of 15 Oil Wells in Endangered Condor Habitat || San Benito County Residents Reach Signature Goal for Fracking Ban Initiative
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