Court Rejects State Regulator’s Bid to Throw Out Lawsuit Alleging Agency’s Failure to Comply with Environmental Laws

Hadsell Stormer Renick & Dai, LLP represents the Center for Biological Diversity in a landmark lawsuit against the California Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM), the state agency charged with “protecting public health, safety, and the environment in its oversight of the oil, natural gas, and geothermal industries.” The complaint, filed in February 2021, alleges CalGEM “ignored its legal obligation to analyze environmental and health harms before issuing permits and approvals for oil and gas projects across the state.” The Center for Biological Diversity has found that CalGEM failed to comply with its obligations under the California Environmental Quality Act and provides several examples, including the agency’s failure to evaluate and review health and environmental risks associated with applications for new oil and gas wells and applications for modifications or adjustments to existing oil and gas wells. CalGEM approved nearly 2,000 permits for new oil and gas wells in 2020 alone without disclosing, analyzing, and mitigating environmental harms.

Recognizing the significant implications of this lawsuit, two petroleum industry trade groups—the California Independent Petroleum Association (CIPA) and the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA)—asked the Court for permission to join the lawsuit shortly after it was filed. CalGEM, WSPA, and CIPA claimed that the lawsuit lacked merit and could be decided based on the complaint alone. The Court—quickly and resoundingly—rejected those arguments and ordered the case to proceed.

We applaud the court’s decision,” our very own Shaleen Shanbhag explains. CalGEM cannot continue to evade its responsibilities to protect Californians…Our goal is to stop the agency’s blatant disregard of the state’s most fundamental environmental laws.”

Hadsell Stormer Renick & Dai, LLP is proud to represent the Center for Biological Diversity in its efforts to hold CalGEM accountable for its misconduct. The firm has been at the forefront of civil rights issues for the last three decades, litigating some of the most high-profile, challenging, and groundbreaking cases in the country. If you or your organization are looking for a powerhouse, principled, progressive firm to partner with or to represent your community, please contact us here or call us at (626) 775-7870.

To read the full press release from the Center for Biological Diversity, please visit the organization’s website.

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