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Excelaron loses appeal of dismissed lawsuit against SLO County

Excelaron proposed oil drilling at sites on the second ridge behind the Mankins Ranch in the Huasna Valley east of Arroyo Grande.
Excelaron proposed oil drilling at sites on the second ridge behind the Mankins Ranch in the Huasna Valley east of Arroyo Grande. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

An appellate court has affirmed a local judge’s ruling that the oil exploration company Excelaron did not file a $6.24 billion lawsuit against the county in a timely fashion.

In a ruling handed down Thursday, the 2nd District Court of Appeal upheld a decision by Superior Court Judge Martin Tangeman that Excelaron failed to file its lawsuit within a 90-day deadline. The case was filed 39 days after that deadline.

Sophia Treder, attorney for Excelaron, argued that the county arbitrarily used a more restrictive state deadline rather than a longer county deadline when it asked that the case be thrown out. She also said the ruling stripped the oil company of its property rights.

A panel of three appellate judges rejected all those arguments and ordered that the county be able to recover its court costs.

Assistant County Counsel Tim McNulty said the county was pleased with the decision. “It is what we expected to happen,” he said.

Treder was not available for comment Thursday.

In oral arguments before the court in May, the county argued that the 90-day deadline was appropriate because it allowed land-use cases like this to be settled quickly. It also argued that the company still has property rights because it is free to file a new application to drill for oil.

In July 2009, Excelaron applied to drill up to 12 exploratory oil wells on the Mankins Ranch in the Huasna Valley east of Arroyo Grande. The county Board of Supervisors denied the project in August 2012, saying that an oil field was incompatible with the rural and isolated valley.

The oil company then sued, seeking $6.24 billion in damages based on the value of the oil it could have recovered. Tangeman dismissed the lawsuit in March 2013.

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