News

Measure A wording finalized

By Daniel Hernandez
La Habra Journal

A superior court judge imposed her own verbiage on all parties involved in a lawsuit regarding the Healthy City Initiative last Friday, modifying the title of a controversial measure on the La Habra Heights March election ballot.Web_LHJ oil and ladera palma_0143_
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Joanne O’Donnell ordered city officials to make slight changes to the ballot title question for the anti-oil initiative the city dubbed Measure A, attempting to reach a compromise between Heights Oil Watch members and the oil industry’s preferred language, City Manager Shauna Clark said.
The new language changes the word “any” to “certain” among other small verbiage alterations.
“It was not some kind of compromise,” Clark stated. “The language was adopted by the court.”
The city manager preferred to let the La Habra Heights city council vote on the new language, but the judge decided to impose the changes and settle the matter on that day.
City Attorney John Brown stated at the meeting that he is confident from a legislative standpoint that the city did everything they could to follow the election codes.
On December 1, an oil industry backed lawsuit filed by Heights resident James Pigott convinced city officials to change the title question on the ballot measure, eliminating the term “high intensity petroleum operations.”
But the HOW group filed its own lawsuit December 12 arguing that the new verbiage the city agreed upon is not impartial and could confuse voters, who might think the initiative would ban existing oil operations.

The superior court judge agreed.

The final version of the debated ballot title now reads like this:
“Shall an ordinance be adopted that prohibits land use for certain treatments of oil or gas wells that are designed to enhance production or recovery, any new oil and gas wells, and reactivation of idle wells?”
The judge ultimately said all the initiative language is partial. “It was the judges’ decision because we [The LHH City Council] just could not reach an agreement,” Kyle Miller said at the meeting.
None of the actual initiative language has been changed, except for the title or question.
An oil industry group, Californians for Energy Independence, recently donated $200,000 to help fight Measure A in La Habra Heights. Members of the HOW organization see it as a steep amount for a community with under 4,000 voters.
As stated, Measure A would ban the drilling of any new oil wells and prohibit the reactivation of any existing idle wells while maintaining existing oil operations.
The oil industries in the community, including California Resource Corporation, formerly known as Occidental Petroleum, and the president of Matrix Oil argue that the initiative not only aims to stop new oil drilling but also could put a halt to all existing oil operations.
Some of the Heights council members and the city manager agreed and have argued in past meetings that the broad verbiage in the initiative reads like it might lead to existing oil wells being shut down because of well rotating.
The HOW group and supporters of Measure A claim the initiative is intended to stop new oil drilling in La Habra Heights, while maintaining existing operations. In other words, the initiative is meant to stop the Matrix Oil project from commencing at a property that it is leasing from the Southern California Gas Co. at 2490 Las Palomas Drive.
A time line, provided by the city of LHH, with the different titles for the initiative with all the small changes from the beginning of the process is as follows:

1.  Language initially written by BBK and challenged by Pigott (Adopted November 13, 2014).
“Shall an ordinance be adopted that prohibits land use for new oil and gas development, including high-intensity petroleum operations, new oil and gas wells, and reactivation of idle wells?”

2.  Approved by Council on December 1 to settle Pigott (Adopted December 1, 2014).
“Shall an ordinance be adopted that prohibits land use for any treatment of oil or gas wells that is designed to enhance production or recovery, any new oil and gas wells, and reactivation of idle wells?”
Note: December 31:  The Judge objected to the use of the word “any”. She did not object to the word “enhance”

3.  Submitted to Judge O’Donnell (Adopted January 2, 2015).
“Shall an ordinance be adopted that prohibits land use for treatment of oil or gas wells that is designed to enhance production or recovery, any new oil and gas wells, and reactivation of idle wells?”

4. Final language (Imposed by order of the court – January 7, 2015)
“Shall an ordinance be adopted that prohibits land use for certain treatments of oil or gas wells that are designed to enhance production or recovery, any new oil and gas wells, and reactivation of idle wells?”

According to Clark, the city sent the ballots to the printer Monday. The election is set for March 5.

Started in 1995, the La Habra Journal is an independent community news source serving the cities of La Habra and La Habra Heights.