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January 7, 2015

La Habra Heights Residents Win Again in Court Battle Over Fracking Ballot Initiative

Victory: City moves closer to banning new oil and gas wells

Contacts

Adrian Martinez, Earthjustice, (415) 217-2112

Kathy Steele, La Habra Heights Oil Watch, (562) 697-4340

Hollin Kretzmann, Center for Biological Diversity, (415) 436-9682, ext. 333

Los Angeles, CA

The Los Angeles Superior Court again today rejected inaccurate and misleading language in a La Habra Heights fracking ballot initiative up for vote in March. The ruling provides community members with accurate information so they can fairly vote on “The Healthy City Initiative,” which would ban new oil and gas development, including high-intensity practices like fracking and acid well stimulation that have been linked to serious health and environmental impacts.

This court ruling comes as a result of a lawsuit filed by Earthjustice on behalf of residents, La Habra Heights Oil Watch, and the Center for Biological Diversity. During the case, the group pushed back on multiple attempts from the oil and gas industry to change the language in the ballot initiative, otherwise known as Measure A, to the point where it would mislead voters as to its true purpose and intent.

Earthjustice attorney Irene Gutierrez: “Once again the court has agreed with the citizens of La Habra Heights, and has ordered that the ballot language needs to be accurate and impartial. This win today supports citizens’ right to a fair elections process.”  

Center for Biological Diversity attorney Hollin Kretzmann: “California communities have the power to ban fracking and other oil and gas activities and protect their air, water, and health. This legal victory ensures that La Habra Heights voters will have accurate information when they make their decision this March.”

La Habra Heights Oil Watch spokeswoman Kathy Steele: “This ruling is once again a victory for residents that want to preserve the green and peaceful community we love. We organized residents together to support the Healthy City Initiative, so that we can stop new invasive drilling developments from destroying it.”

Read the court document.

Background

November 2014 – La Habra Heights residents proposed and voted to place Measure A on the March 2015 ballot after mounting concerns over the environmental and health effects additional invasive drilling would have on their community.

December 1, 2014 – An oil industry-backed lawsuit pressured the City to change Measure A’s ballot language so that it would paint the measure as much broader than it actually is, inaccurately stating that it would apply even to existing operations with vested rights to produce oil.

December 31, 2014 – The Los Angeles Superior Court ruled in favor of La Habra Heights residents by rejecting inaccurate oil and gas-backed language from being included in the ballot initiative. The Court ordered the City to revise the language.

January 5, 2015 – The City proposed new ballot language to the court that did not remedy the deficiencies in the earlier language, and continued to improperly portray Measure A as having a broad application to all treatments of oil and gas wells.

January 7, 2015 – Residents again challenged the faulty language presented by the City, and the court agreed. New language ordered by the court now provides a more accurate and fair description of the effect of Measure A.

If passed in March, this initiative would prohibit land use for drilling new oil and gas wells, new high-intensity petroleum operations like hydraulic fracturing, and the reactivation of idle wells. The initiative would also ensure that operators with vested rights could continue their operations.

A sign hangs by an oil field in California, warning of hazardous fumes.

A sign hangs by an oil field in California, warning of hazardous fumes.

Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice

About Earthjustice

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.