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A Monterey County Superior Court judge on Wednesday, Aug. 27 ordered Citadel Exploration Inc. to immediately stop oil production near Pinnacles National Park and to begin securing its well within 72 hours. The ruling comes a little more than a month after the court ruled that San Benito County unlawfully approved a new oil-development project near Pinnacles National Park that could result in hundreds of wells being drilled in agricultural and wildlife habitat in the Salinas Valley watershed.

Citadel in mid-August announced that its first well at the site — the Indian #1-15 — had been producing approximately six barrels of oil per day over the past week. That followed a judge’s July ruling, in response to a lawsuit brought by the Center for Biological Diversity, which noted, “There are numerous opportunities for toxic spills to occur that the County has apparently not contemplated.”

The center challenged the Indian Wells project, which would use cyclic steam injection, a water-intensive form of oil extraction. The court, in its July ruling, agreed that San Benito County unlawfully failed to consider development of the oil field beyond the initial 15 “pilot” wells in the challenged approval as required by the California Environmental Quality Act. The court also found that the county failed to properly analyze the water usage, water pollution risks, greenhouse gas emissions, and threats to the California condor — even from the initial 15 well approval.

For the complete BenitoLink story on the court’s initial ruling from July 24, click here.