Excelaron Loses oil exploration appeal
July 25, 2014
Excelaron lost its appeal of a local judge’s ruling that its $6.24 billion suit could be dismissed because it was not served on the defendant within a 90-day deadline.
In its suit, Excelaron, argued that San Luis Obispo County officials should not be able to have a lawsuit dismissed after their staff provided deceptive information in an apparent attempt to mislead the plaintiff. Excelaron’s attorney Sophia Treder also said the county effected a regulatory taking of Excelaron’s property and failed to follow laws that require just compensation for that taking.
However, the appellate judges determined the time limit for filing was reason for dismissal. In addition, the appellate court ruled the county would be able to recover its court costs.
The proposed drilling site, the Mankins Ranch, is zoned for agricultural use, and under San Luis Obispo County’s Land Use Ordinance, “petroleum extraction is allowed… subject to permit.” That law established development standards for oil projects in the county.
In August 2012, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors voted to deny an appeal of a planning commission rejection of the project based on the contention that oil production is incompatible with the character of the Huasna Valley.
In August, two days after the Board of Supervisors rejected the project, the county sent a letter to Exceleron explaining the rules regarding a possible appeal. In the letter, Senior Planner John McKenzie wrote that an appeal by Excelaron would fall under a code section which does not require the county to be served within 90 days.
Excelaron filed its initial complaint on Nov. 19, but did not serve the county at that time. The oil company amended its petition and served the county with the lawsuit on Dec. 28, well after the 90 days required by law to file and serve a complaint.