Drillers Sue Compton for Right to Frack
LOS ANGELES (CN) - Compton adopted an unconstitutional law that regulates fracking outside city limits, the Western States Petroleum Association claims in a lawsuit.
The Western States Petroleum Association sued Compton, its City Council and mayor in Superior Court on Monday, challenging the ordinance, which was adopted on April 22.
Citing language in City of Compton Ordinance No. 2,249, the lawsuit says the city bans fracking "'from any surface location in the city [of Compton] or from any site outside the city limits where the subsurface bottom hole is located in the city.""
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves blasting high-pressure liquid to create fractures in shale rock and release natural gas.
Opponents claim that fracking can contaminate ground water, cause earthquakes and wreak environmental havoc.
The oil and gas industry claim fracking creates jobs and will help the nation achieve energy independence.
The plaintiff, representing gas companies in five states, claims association says a "single" city official asked the city this year to consider the moratorium on fracking outside city limits.
"The council member requested the moratorium even though well stimulation activities currently are not applied anywhere in the city. Nonetheless, city staff alleged that well stimulation activities are occurring in neighboring municipalities, and drafted the ordinance to prohibit well stimulation activities in those other municipalities if the oil or gas well would 'bottom out' in the City of Compton," the lawsuit states.
Only one member of the public, Lauren Stiner, a "self-proclaimed 'environmental activist'" spoke at an April 15 council meeting about the proposed ordinance, according to the association. Stiner warned the city that language in the law might open it up to legal challenges, the complaint states.
In crafting the law, the council did not rely on experts or on supporting evidence, the petroleum association claims.
California lawmakers passed legislation last year that acts as a "statewide regulatory scheme" for fracking, Western States says, and the California Department of Conservation Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources adopted regulations that preempt Compton's ordinance.
"As a result, the ordinance, which would interfere with the state's comprehensive statutory and regulatory scheme, is void, unenforceable, and unconstitutionally invalid on its face," according to the complaint.
The plaintiff claims that the California Constitution bars a city from adopting ordinances or laws for municipalities outside city limits.
City officials rammed the law through in a week, and never sought input from association members, the association says.
"Even if plaintiff or its members had been notified, and even if plaintiff or its members had appeared before City Council, the city's adoption of the ordinance appears to have been a foregone conclusion. The City Council's cursory 'deliberation' on the ordinance lasted, in total, approximately four minutes. That is hardly the hallmark of a deliberative, democratic government lawmaking process," the complaint states.
The association asks the court to declare that the ordinance is preempted by state law, and is unconstitutional and invalid. It also wants the court to enjoin the city from enforcing it.
Western States is represented by Benjamin Hanelin of Latham & Watkins.
The City of Compton did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Compton, pop. 98,000, is in the eastern Los Angeles metroplex.