California oil industry lobby group files for bankruptcy
SACRAMENT, California.– The California Independent Petroleum Association, one of the two major lobby groups for the oil and gas industry in California, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this week in a state bankruptcy court. The move comes after a Los Angeles court ordered the group to pay more than $ 2 million to the Center for Biological Diversity, youth groups in South Los Angeles and Wilmington, and the city of Los Angeles. for bringing retaliatory action against them.
The bankruptcy filing suggests lobbyists won’t pay the multi-million dollar judgment, after forcing years of litigation for a baseless SLAPP (“Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation”) lawsuit against the groups. A judge ruled in July that the lawsuit was intended to harass the groups after they obtained protection from the Los Angeles neighborhood oil rig in 2015.
“What a bunch of absolute cowards,” said Maya Golden-Krasner, an attorney at the Center’s Climate Law Institute. “It is shameful for this front group of the oil industry to sue a group of children who fight for cleaner air, to try to intimidate the groups who fight against pollution, then to flee the project. law when courts stop their bullying behavior. “
In 2015, the groups sued the city of Los Angeles over oil projects in communities of color. The two sides reached an agreement in 2016 after the city adopted new requirements for drilling applications to protect vulnerable communities and ensure compliance with state environmental review rules.
The oil and gas association then filed a counter-suit, claiming that city, environmental and youth groups had violated its constitutional due process right – a classic SLAPP action intended to harass and intimidate local people. people defending their rights.
In 2019, a California appeals court dismissed the petroleum association’s complaint as a baseless attack on the groups, leading to the conviction that it had to pay the legal fees they incurred to fight it. .
“To hear that they have filed for bankruptcy is more than upsetting,” said Nalleli Cobo, co-founder of the South Central Youth Leadership Coalition. “Seeing how close we were to victory, this great company took the easy way out. When will this industry be forced to face the consequences of poisoning innocent people? We will continue to fight until everyone has access to clean air, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, socio-economic status or postcode.
The California Independent Petroleum Association, or CIPA, continued to spend hundreds of thousands on lobbying this year to oppose legislation to protect communities from pollution from the oil industry.
“Oil operators continue to put their pockets on what is ours, whether it is money or control over our environment,” said Ashley Hernandez, a youth organizer in Wilmington. “Our courageous leaders may be young, but they know the insidious strategies CIPA is launching to avoid being held responsible for racist traffic jams in BIPOC neighborhoods. We will not let CIPA and other petroleum representatives shy away from their responsibility to our vulnerable communities, not after delivering a landmark judgment ensuring that a process is underway to protect frontline communities from their practices. “
The industry group is very influential in shaping state oil and gas policies. Jason Marshall, the former head of the California Geologic Energy Management Division, the main oil and gas regulator, is now a Executive Board Member from the Association.
Members of the association included oil giants like Chevron, Aera Energy (a joint venture of Shell and Exxon) and California Resources Corporation. Chevron only reported $ 3.1 billion in revenue in the most recent quarter.
Several law firms involved in the oil and gas association litigation, including those who filed the SLAPP complaint, are also members of the association themselves. A law firm, Alston & Bird, is listed as a creditor. The firm is a member of the association, and a partner of the law firm sits on the table of a member organization, the California Natural Gas Producers Association. Lawyers from the law firm represented the association in its lawsuit against the youth groups and the Center.