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MONTEREY Calif. May 4, 2018 – The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit yesterday against the Monterey County Board of Supervisors over a permit that allows drilling oil and gas wells in an undeveloped oilfield in Hames Valley.
The permit was denied by the Monterey County Planning Commission on health and environmental grounds. But Trio Petroleum won an appeal from the board of supervisors, paving the way for the first major oil and gas project since voters passed Measure Z, a land-use law banning fracking and new wells in the county.
“Monterey County voters made clear that they don’t want to sacrifice one more square inch of their community to toxic oil-industry pollution,” said Clare Lakewood, a senior attorney at the Center’s Climate Law Institute. “We’ll keep fighting for their right to protect their children and the environment from dirty and dangerous drilling.”
The Bakersfield-based Trio Petroleum says the project would potentially lead to dozens more production wells in the Hames Valley area and millions of barrels of oil.
On Jan. 31 the planning commission rejected Trio’s permit application by a 6-3 vote, citing concerns about the project’s harm to air, water and the climate. It also noted that it would be improper to allow Trio to drill new wells while oil companies, including Trio, have tied up Measure Z in litigation.
But on April 3 the board of supervisors overturned the planning commission’s decision and approved the project, doing so without conducting an environmental impact report required by state law.
Today’s lawsuit filed in the Monterey County Superior Court comes weeks after the county and local group Protect Monterey County filed appeals to restore Measure Z’s full protections, including a provision that would have prohibited drilling new wells like the ones Trio is proposing. That provision was struck down by a Monterey County Superior Court judge in March. However, the judge’s ruling did uphold Measure Z’s ban on fracking.
“The planning commission was right to reject this destructive project,” Lakewood said. “The board’s decision to move forward without even examining the consequences flies in the face of the law and disregards the will of the people.”