Judge suspends ordinance, halts oil and gas well permits

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A Superior Court judge has ordered a halt to issuing new oil and gas permits under an ordinance passed earlier this year until the court determines environmental issues have been addressed.

The ruling this week by Judge Gregory Pulskamp won’t impact permits that have been issued since the ordinance passed March 9, but stops the county from reviewing and issuing more until he determines it complies with California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requirements.

A hearing on the matter is scheduled April 28.

County Planning Director Lorelei Oviatt emailed the following statement to 17 News:

“On October 6, 2021, Superior Court Judge Pulskamp issued a decision on the Earth Justice et al filed action that alleged that Kern County could not re-start permitting with the Supplemental Environmental Impact Report (2020-2021) until the court had reviewed it and deemed it valid. Kern County received this ruling on October 6, 2021, at 3 p.m., and immediately stopped all permitting in compliance with the order. Kern County is confident our supplemental EIR (2020-2021) will be found valid in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act at the court’s April 2022 hearing. Kern County continues to support our essential energy industries in providing power for all of California.”

Multiple entities including environmental organizations sued the county over its 2015 ordinance that streamlines the permitting process and allows for roughly 40,000 new oil and gas wells by 2036.

The groups argued the ordinance failed to mitigate or adequately address impacts on air and water quality.

The Fifth District Court of Appeal upheld the arguments, ordering a halt to permitting until the ordinance was revised.

The Board of Supervisors approved the revised ordinance, but the groups argued it did so before a judge determined the ordinance was valid. Pulskamp agreed.

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