November 26th , 2012 9:04 am Leave a comment

Oil exploration company sues California county over denial of drilling proposal

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SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (AP) — The oil exploration company Excelaron LLC has filed a multibillion-dollar lawsuit against San Luis Obispo County after the Board of Supervisors rejected a plan for extracting crude oil from beneath rural Huasna Valley.

The lawsuit filed Nov. 19 in Superior Court claims the decision rendered Excelaron’s mineral rights valueless, the Tribune of San Luis Obispo reported this week.

That decision constitutes a “regulatory taking of property” without just compensation, the suit alleges. Excelaron claimed the 720-acre field sits atop 208 million barrels of oil, of which 30 percent is recoverable and at $100 a barrel is worth $6.24 billion.

The suit also seeks to recover other expenses such as more than $500,000 spent on an environmental report.

A call by The Associated Press to the county counsel’s office seeking comment was not immediately answered Friday.

Huasna Valley is in the southern portion of the Central Coast county. Residents of the agricultural region were concerned about protecting their quality of life, and other opponents feared approval of drilling would open the county to a new wave of oil speculation.

In August, after five years of controversy, county supervisors voted unanimously to deny Excelaron’s plans to drill as many as a dozen wells in Huasna Valley. Supervisors were concerned that an oil field would be incompatible with the rustic, isolated valley. Concerns ranged from fire danger to traffic, safety and noise.

County planning staff and the Planning Commission had previously come out against the drilling plan.

Excelaron’s lawsuit claims the county abused its discretion and based its decisions on findings not supported by evidence.

The company also contends it has lost all use and value in its property, noting that because it only owns the mineral rights but not the surface, there is no other economically viable use.

Huasna Valley is about 175 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

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