Judge Halts New Wells
Professor Deborah Sivas weighs in on the proposed development of an oil field near a national park for The Salinas Californian.
A Monterey County Superior Court judge has issued a preliminary ruling that San Benito County unlawfully approved an 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.
The recent lawsuit was brought against San Benito County for allowing a project involving 15 exploratory wells operated by Newport Beach-based Citadel Exploration to move forward without an environmental impact report, or EIR. The plaintiff, Center for Biological Diversity, argued that the project would be dangerous to the area's condor foraging habitat and risk polluting the watershed that drains into the Salinas River. Because of these risks, San Benito County was obligated to conduct an EIR according to the California Environmental, attorneys for the Center for Biological Diversity successfully argued.
"This project could turn this beautiful area into a massive new oil field," said Deborah Sivas, director of the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic, who represented the Center in the lawsuit. "In the middle of an epic drought, these wells would waste huge amounts of water needed by local farmers, ranchers and wildlife. Following the California Environmental Quality Act's common-sense review measures will protect this important area and its water supply."