Harris joining dispute over city's oil project

Jessica M. Karmasek May 18, 2012, 12:50pm


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline) - California Attorney General Kamala Harris has reportedly joined a lawsuit against a city's planned oil project.

According to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Harris will serve as lead attorney for the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, which has decided to enter the ongoing dispute over drilling rights.

The SMMC, a part of the California Natural Resources Agency, was established by the state Legislature in 1980.

Since that time, it has helped to preserve more than 69,000 acres of park land in both wilderness and urban settings, and improved more than 114 public recreational facilities in the state's southern region.

According to the Tribune, SMMC gave the city of Whittier, which is about 12 miles southeast of Los Angeles, $7 million in public Proposition A funds nearly 20 years ago to help create the Whittier Hills nature preserve.

Now, Matrix Oil Corp. and Clayton Williams Energy Inc. want to drill for oil and gas on about 20 acres of the preserve.

SMMC, siding with a group of city residents called the Open Space Legal Defense Fund, argues that Whittier's proposal granting the two companies permission is illegal and violates the rules and intent of Proposition A.

On Monday, Harris' office served court papers on the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, an arm of the SMMC that filed a lawsuit in February, and Open Space, which filed its own suit last year, the Tribune reported.

The attorney general is arguing that the city's oil lease is "against public policy," and is seeking an injunction.

According to the Tribune, a superior court judge will hear SMMC's motion to intervene in June.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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