Column – This oil industry group landed on bankruptcy by suing environmental critics

Stories that acknowledge their presence present such inner joy that is deeply rooted in our culture, from Angelo in Shakespeare’s “Measurement” to Mozart’s “Figaro Marriage” to the disgusting count in the film “Back to the Future”

Here is the real life story.

In this case, the bully is California Independent Petroleum Ason, which operates oil companies around the state.

We could see harassment from a mile away, and that was the accusation.

Ashley Hernandez, for local youth justice

CIPA has sued environmentalists and the city of Los Angeles to block efforts to enforce excavation rules in crowded areas, especially minorities, which CIPA members know cost too much. That is the bullying.

The legal battle was won by the CIPA and the court, which ordered the organization to pay its intended legal bills. According to a July 6 ruling by Los Angeles High Court Judge Malcolm McKay, those amounted to $ 2.3 million.

More than $ 1.2 million is owed to the city of La Lala, one of CIPA’s target groups, with about $ 1.03 million in debt.

CIPA has now filed a bankruptcy stating that it has no money to pay or post the required bond before appealing the order. That is the installation section.

You can harvest this harvest for California’s strong anti-SLAPP law. Abbreviation means “Strategic allegations against public participation.” It refers to strong interests in the oil and gas industry – not to resolve trade disputes or seek redress, but to intimidate critics who exercise their right to free speech or to sue the government for control.

By the way, CIPA failed to have the rules removed or removed.

Ashley Hernandez, a youth justice activist in the area, said: We could see harassment from a mile away, and that was the accusation. It is not surprising that the Petroleum Association has tried to evade its obligations after our success in the courts.

CIPA says it has been hoping to find a way to repay its creditors for more than five years. “$ 2.3 million is more than CIPA’s annual budget,” said chief executive Rock Zeirman.

A meeting of CIPA lenders, including the city and the Center for Biological Diversity, is scheduled for October 6 in Bankruptcy Court.

Lenders are expected to argue that CIPA has sufficient resources to pay its bills. Mike Fewer told me. “We are taking a violent stand for the rights of the public. In fact, the money in the debt is owed to the city’s taxpayers. ”

Zierman says the team is distorted as a bully.

How can a small business with four employees threaten the city of Los Angeles, a force of full-time lawyers and billions of dollars? Zeirman, asked me by email.

Of course, that is absurd. CIPA membership includes Exxon Mobile and Chevron, one of the world’s most powerful corporations. In the last four quarters, the Exxon mobile revenue has grown to $ 178.6 billion and Chevron to $ 116 billion.

Since 2019 alone, Exxon Mobile has spent $ 322,000 in California lobby, and Chevron, the state headquarters, has spent $ 12.7 million. According to the California State Department, Chevron has donated 1.75 million CIPAs to political activities in California since 2014.

Regarding the city’s “army” of full-time lawyers, between 2017 and 2019, CIPA paid more than $ 2.6 million in legal fees to at least four high-profile law firms, including the Los Angeles-based Manatas Phillips and Phillips. Gibson, Dunn and Crusher. That’s according to the company’s latest public offerings.

So let’s hear no more about what the CIPA is all about. He was involved in the debate on behalf of one of California’s finest financial and power industries, not for himself and his four workers.

A few words about SLAPP are appropriate before moving on to the litigation details that led CIPA to such repairs. Since the 1990’s, policymakers have viewed it as a threat to the public good.

Anti-ISLP laws in the books of 33 states and case law – judges’ decisions – two more. Efforts are underway to enact a federal anti-ISLP law, but advocates have tried four times before, most recently in 2015.

Although anti-ISLP law is politically biased, the problem persists. This is because SLAPP outfits come not only to local groups and other activists, but also to businesses and public officials.

Employers have been accused of punishing or firing employees, of challenging technology companies’ ownership of other companies, and of prosecuting better business offices with “F” ratings. Government officials have been accused of enforcing regulations. All anti-SLAPP regulations are protected.

“The case brings together strangers,” says Ivan Mascani, policy director for the Public Participation Project. “It crosses party lines.” California has some of the strongest anti-espionage laws in the country, but so do red states like Texas and Oklahoma.

“Anyone can get SLAPPed for any reason,” says Mascagni. Bullies may try to use their legal system to silence anyone who speaks negatively about them. Plaintiffs’ attorneys seem to be the main obstacle to the federal constitution. “They don’t want to promote anything that might help the defendant.”

The CPA case began in 2015, with the Center for Biological Diversity and other local groups opposing the city’s excavation licensing policies. “We comply with California’s environmental standards by suing the city for new excavations,” said Maya Golden Krasner, the center’s attorney general.

Although CEQA wanted those issues to be taken into account, the city was lazy, especially considering the environmental, health and safety effects of drilling applications. That is important because oil and gas emissions are associated with many health problems, including asthma and cancer, among nearby residents.

A.D. In 2016, the city approved the lawsuit and issued an internal memorandum to zonal division officials requesting an environmental review and public hearing for all new drilling applications, including changes to existing permits.

CIAPA accused the companies and the city of reaching a “secret” agreement by closing the oil company out of settlement negotiations. The group asked for a settlement.

SIPAPA stayed with the city despite the fact that they were acting as agents of the city, but kept environmental groups involved. The groups argued that they did not have the authority to force the city to do anything.

During the trial, the CIP described the process as a matter of life or death for its members and pointed the finger at local experts.

A.D. In a 2016 court hearing, CIPA’s attorney said, “For those who regularly attack my clients in these cases, this is tantamount to Holy War.”

The case continues until the State Court of Appeals dismisses the CIPA’s claim and directs the court to review CIPA’s attorney’s fees. CIPA appealed to the state Supreme Court, which refused to take up the case.

CIApa Zeirman mocked me that the judge’s $ 2.3 million review was offline more than any anti-SLAPP review in California history.

Judge McCain, however, was clear on why the city and local groups deserved it. “This case involves complex land use and constitutional laws, has been strongly debated for five years and includes appeals and high court proceedings,” he wrote.

In fact, the judge warned: “Anyone who tries to compensate the opposition in the SLAPP uniform can get his bill back like a boomerang.”

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