California Field Report – May, 2014

By Olman Valverde and Mike Flores, of Luna & Glushon

Local Ordinance Bill AB 2420 Dies In Committee

A proposed measure to allow a city or county to adopt and enforce a local ordinance prohibiting well stimulation and treatments was defeated after being debated in its first committee hearing. AB 2420, authored by Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian (D-Los Angeles), sought to provide local jurisdictions with authority now possessed by the state.

CIPA argued “AB 2420 conflicted with existing law running contrary to the newly passed SB 4 that is arguably the most stringent well stimulation measure in the country and possibly in the world.” CIPA also said that, while local government has jurisdiction over all “surface” impacts and maintains lead CEQA status, the State, through the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) has complete authority over all “below surface” impacts.

The bill eventually failed on a 2-3-4 vote, with Assembly Members Marc Levine (Vice Chair) and Anthony Rendon casting the only Aye votes.

BLM Announces Bakersfield Appointment

The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Bakersfield Field office has announced the selection of John Hodge as the new Assistant Field Manager for Minerals. Mr. Hodge has worked as a Natural Resource Specialist and Wildlife Biologist in the Bakersfield Field Office for the past five years.

Field Office Manager Gabe Garcia said, “John brings well rounded experience and great understanding of our Minerals Program to this job. We look forward to his leadership as we embark on the many new challenges that face our Minerals Program as a whole.”

Mr. Hodge’s appointment will begin June 2.

Santa Cruze County Becomes First In the State to Ban Fracking

In a unanimous 5-0 vote by the Board of Supervisors that came without objection, the Board of Supervisors banned hydraulic fracturing in all onshore well development.

The move is largely symbolic, as there are no known oil leases in Santa Cruz County, nor has it been targeted by oil prospectors.

In a similar move, San Benito County becomes the first county in California to put a measure on a ballot to ban hydraulic fracturing. County supervisors gave the ballot issue the green light after a local group obtained 4,000 signatures needed for a petition to make the ballot.

City of Carson Ends Moratorium

The Carson City Council declined to extend a fracking-inspired moratorium on all oil and gas drilling in a vote taken in the early morning hours of Wednesday, April 30th. The council had enacted a 45-day ban on all drilling on March 19th, to give the city time to review the alleged safety risks of oil and gas operations, including hydraulic fracturing.

The only planned drilling in the city was a proposal by Occidental Petroleum to drill more than 200 wells, none of which would involve fracking.

Continuation of the moratorium would have required a four-fifths supermajority vote by the city council. Only two council members voted to extend the ban. Two others opposed, and one member abstained.

Also discussed at the meeting was the pending lawsuit filed by some Carson residents related to homes built over abandoned oil operations that have been affected by contamination in the soil.

Supporters and opponents of drilling activity turned out in force for the council meeting.

“We want Carson to be safe,” Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor AFL-CIO told The Los Angeles Times, “but let’s not pass a law that’s going to cut off this city from its economy. Together, we will fight to make Carson safe and prosperous for all residents.”

William McFarland, Human Resources Manager for Occidental Petroleum, told the LA Times that the council’s vote showed “that the city continues to recognize the value of an industry that brings safe projects and good jobs to the community.”

City of Beverly Hills Bans Fracking

In a unanimous vote, Beverly Hills on April 22 became the first city in California to pass a ban on fracking and related well stimulation techniques.

The ordinance not only would make it unlawful to use hydraulic fracturing, acidizing or any other well stimulation technique from any surface area in the City, it also prohibits these activities from any site outside city limits that would drill and extract oil and gas underneath the city.

The ordinance will return to the Beverly Hills City Council for its final reading at an upcoming formal Council meeting where a second vote will put the law into effect.