In passing an ordinance to allow a massive expansion of oil and gas drilling, Kern County leaders ignored the devastating air, water, and noise pollution and farmland loss this drilling would cause. King and Gardiner Farms took the county to court, using CEQA to compel the county to seriously consider the effects of the ordinance on agriculture, a major sector of the local economy. A coalition of social justice non-profits also sued the county under CEQA for failing to consider the dire public health effects that expanding fossil fuel extraction would have on already-overburdened low-income communities and communities of color.

The courts ruled in favor of the farmers and residents in 2020, demonstrating how CEQA can be used to protect public health and local agriculture. Unfortunately, the county did not make any significant changes to their new environmental review of the project. In early 2021, the Board of Supervisors approved the new review and passed the ordinance, over the objections of thousands of residents, a coalition of social justice groups, and King and Gardiner Farms. The plaintiffs sued again, and in June 2022, the court ruled that the County had again violated CEQA. CEQA has once again given the people a tool to stand up to deep-pocketed oil companies and defend their right to clean air, clean water, and healthy farmlands.

Source: Chelsea Tu, Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment

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