On October 21, 2013, the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) filed a motion to dismiss citing the provisions of the state’s new law (S.B. 4) which sets out tough restrictions on the use of hydraulic fracturing and other acidizing processes.

The WSPA is an intervener-defendant in an October 2012 lawsuit filed in the California Superior Court for Alameda County by several environmental groups seeking an injunction prohibiting any new oil and gas permit approvals until the California Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (“DOGGR”) “complies with its legal requirements to evaluate and mitigate the significant environmental and public health impacts caused by hydraulic fracturing.”

The Plaintiffs claim that the DOGGR has issued permits “without any environmental analysis” of “contamination of domestic and agricultural water supplies, the use of massive amounts of water, the emission of hazardous air pollutants, and the potential for induced seismic activity” allegedly created by hydraulic fracturing.

In its motion to dismiss, the WSPA argues that the complaint is now irrelevant because the law requires the DOGGR “to conduct an EIR [environmental impact report] addressing any potential environmental impacts from hydraulic fracturing in the state” by July 15, 2015. According to the WSPA, the law releases oil and gas companies from any need to go through California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) until the EIR is completed. “Accordingly, there is no basis for the granting of any effective relief that is not already provided by the passage of S.B. 4, and thus the case should be dismissed.”

The DOGGR has filed pleadings concurring with WSPA, stating that “the regulatory framework adopted in S.B. 4, including new provisions for well stimulation permits and for environmental review, render plaintiff’s claims regarding the Department’s alleged past pattern and practices for environmental review of hydraulic fracturing moot.”

This post was written by Barclay Nicholson (barclay.nicholson@nortonrosefulbright.com or 713.651.3662) from Norton Rose Fulbright’s Energy Practice Group.