The Sierra Club and several other environmentalist organizations are suing Kern County in California for approving a revised ordinance that will allow for the drilling of several thousand new oil wells, the Associated Press reports.
The plaintiffs asked the court to order the county leadership to set aside the revised ordinance and ban them from approving new drilling permits.
The revision of the ordinance was prompted by an appeals court ruling that found its older version, from 2015, was in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act because it failed to fully disclose and evaluate potential damage resulting from drilling operations.
The Kern County leadership made 87 revisions, according to Kern County Planning Director Lorelei Oviatt. Following the revisions, the County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to approve the ordinance, which would fast-track new oil and gas drilling over the next 15 years, the AP reported.
The key revision that will allow for the fast-tracking of new oil and gas wells—which was also the cause of the environmentalists’ reaction—comes down to a blanket environmental impact report that will make possible the simultaneous approval of as many as 2,700 new oil and gas wells annually.
This means that over the next 20 years, Kern County could see a total of 43,000 new oil and gas wells drilled in California’s prime oil and gas patch. Yet this is a lot less than what would have been possible under the original ordinance from 2015: according to the AP, it would have allowed for 72,000 wells to be drilled over the same period.
Supporters of the new ordinance argue that it will ensure the production of local oil under some of the strictest environmental regulations, which will replace “dirtier” imported oil.
Opponents, on the other hand, have argued that the new ordinance will open the door to rubber-stamping permits.