SLO County hit with $6 billion property rights lawsuit

November 20, 2012

By DANIEL BLACKBURN

Excelaron, the company seeking to drill as many as 12 oil wells in the Huasna Valley near Arroyo Grande, filed a more than $6 billion lawsuit against San Luis Obispo County.

In the lawsuit filed Monday, attorney Sophia Treder said the county effected a regulatory taking of Excelaron’s property and failed to follow laws that require just compensation for that taking. The lawsuit requests that the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors follow existing laws and set aside its decision denying the project, or compensate the company for its damages.

In August, the board 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.

The suit argues that the Huasna Valley has been the site of much oil exploration and production, producing from the early 1900s through 1988. The Mankins Ranch itself has several old oil pads, access roads and at least five abandoned wells.

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.

The ranch lies over a 720-acre pool of oil estimated to contain “approximately 208 million barrels of oil,” according to the lawsuit. “At the current price of $100 a barrel, this amounts to a gross value of $20.8 billion.”

Of that supply, approximately 30 percent would be recoverable. That would amount to $6.24 billion, according to the lawsuit, which also seeks attorneys’ fees and other related expenses.

Excelaron applied for a drilling permit in 2009. The county accepted the application for processing and hired an independent consultant to prepare an environmental impact report (EIR). Ultimately, Excelaron paid the county more than $500,000 for a project review, preparation of the EIR and administrative fees.

A week before the planning commission was to hear the permit application, county staff issued a recommendation for denial — the first time Excelaron officials learned that staff was planning to reject the project.

Excelaron’s planner Carol Florence told the Board of Supervisors in August that the county planning commission’s denial of the project was based on inaccurate information that conflicted with the county’s environmental impact report. She asked the supervisors for a continuation so that project alternatives could be studied. The board rejected her request.

The lawsuit claims county officials “do not intend to approve any oil project in the Huasna area” and call that “tantamount to a complete prohibition on oil development in the area.” And that Excelaron’s proposal “complied in all respects with the county’s standards for oil projects.”

The county, the lawsuit alleges, “abused its discretion” because the supervisors’ decision “was not supported by the findings it adopted, and the findings were not supported by substantial evidence on the record.” The county “failed to proceed in the manner prescribed by its own laws and regulations.”

County officials have not commented on the lawsuit.

 


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Myself

Help me out here, I don’t see mention that Excel owns property there in Huasna, just the mention of the Mankins ranch, now does EXcel own property or just the rights to drill, I’m NOT against drilling, and not against property rights, but that is a tough spot to be in, for those of you that haven’t been out there its a tough road to hoe, I’ve hauled cattle out of there, the road is substandard too narrow,too windy, a 70 foot long semi has trouble getting in and out of there and tractor and two trailers also takes up the whole road, abet a little safer than a semi, but still you really need a pilot car to get a rig in and out of there safely, and it takes 45 minutes from Lopez road back to Mankins, there would have to be some concessions on Excel’s part to get truck in and out of there to move the oil.


Jorge Estrada

The publicly understood access mitigation would be via HWY 166 for this endeavor. Please respond if I have been misinformed.


Mr. Holly

Too bad that this issue didn’t go thru the BOS as easily as Adam Hill and Bruce Gibson got there “drilling” permits thru with county staff on board.


SLOBIRD

Merry Christmas, taxpayers. Don’t forget to attend the “Garbagemen’s Ball” at the Embassy Suite where all the politicians in the County attend and thank each other for the fine job screwing the public in 2012. You would like they could at lease look politically create and just call it the “Garbage Ball”. Thanks, Santa!


givemeabreak

Go figure, our county can not help the homeless, yet find all the time and funds in the world to fu#$ with people like Dan DeVaul, and continue to make stupid decisions that put us in situations with lawsuits like this. Guess the powers in charge are to busy bending their assistants over their desks to pay attention to anything else.


kayaknut

Is this cost to the taxpayers something we can thank Larry, Curly, …….. I mean Hill, Patterson and Gibson for??


easymoney

Of course this will cost the taxpayers of the county.

Not to mention the money the county took in, in the form of fees and EIR costs and gave the nod to submit, then took back on a whim. I for one am glad there has been a house cleaning at the BOS…


Jorge Estrada

Now it’s time for the next verse: sensible, logical, ohhhh responsible, practical


racket

Won’t you sign up your name,

we’d like to feel you’re acceptable,

respectable,presentable,

a vegetable


Jorge Estrada

The county legal staff has got to be wondering if the anything goes until there’s a complaint, way of doing job security, will pencil out in this case? I think not, as the sensible, logical, responsible, practical answer does not belong to the, ” what is your’s is negotiable”, socialist.


racket

It all seems so logical.


Niles Q

I can see it now, the insurance company will force the Supes to cave and reconsider and then approve the oil project. Then the people in Huasna will sue the county to overturn the reconsideration and go back to denying the project. Then Excellaron will sue the county to overturn the overturning of their overturned decision, and on and on ad nauseum…

Just give them the permit, the price of oil is dropping and it’ll soon not be worth it economically to drill. And in 2 years when the permit expires, pass a Resolution that bans oil drilling in Huasna and start the lawsuit merry-go-round all over again. The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round…

.


unlisted

Yes, I bet all the attorneys are chomping at the bit.


Robert1

Good, glad someone with deep pockets has the ability and determination to fight the county in its continued effort of taking rights from property owners, go get’m.


racket

This is the third(?) property rights related suit this year? Or have there been others?


Seems as if supes, in their quest to tie up other people’s property, need to adhere a little more closely to the rules. Where’s the reset button?


Kevin Rice

$100 BILLION DOLLARS!