Plaintiff Seeks to Use Anti-Discrimination Law to Stop Fracking

Stoel Rives LLP

On July 14, a complaint was filed in Sacramento County Superior Court against Governor Brown and the Division of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources (“DOGGR”) Supervisor Steve Bohlen.  The lawsuit claims Governor Brown and Supervisor Bohlen have adopted regulations that result in racially disparate impacts from well stimulation on minority students.

State regulators recently implemented final regulations pursuant to Senate Bill 4 (“SB 4”), which increased regulatory oversight over all well stimulation activities, including hydraulic fracturing.

Under Government Code section 11135(a), no person shall be unlawfully subjected to discrimination under any program conducted by the state or any state agency.

The plaintiff in the action is the parent of two minority children who attend school in Kern County, California.  In this novel lawsuit, the plaintiff claims that his children have suffered psychological distress due to well stimulation activities occurring near their schools and that a disproportionate number of minority children attend schools near stimulated wells.  The complaint states that Latino students are 18.4 percent more likely to attend school within 1.5 miles of a hydraulic fracturing operation than a non-Latino student.

The lawsuit seeks to invalidate the SB 4 regulations and enjoin the defendants from approving any well stimulation permits until well stimulation can be conducted in a non-discriminatory way.

The lawsuit comes just days after an Independent Study found “no recorded negative impacts from hydraulic fracturing chemical use” and “no records of groundwater contamination due to hydraulic fracturing.”  Indeed, the EPA also recently released a Study, which found no signs of “widespread, systemic” drinking water pollution from hydraulic fracturing.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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