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La Habra Heights oil battle heats up, with dispute over initiative summary

CULVER CITY, CA - APRIL 25:  Oil rigs extract petroleum as the price of crude oil rises to nearly $120 per barrel, prompting oil companies to reopen numerous wells across the nation that were considered tapped out and unprofitable decades ago when oil sold for one-fifth the price or less, on April 25, 2008 in the Los Angeles area community of Culver City, California. Many of the old unprofitable wells, known as "stripper wells", are located in urban areas where home owners are often outraged by the noise, smell, and possible environmental hazards associated with living so close to renewed oil drilling. Since homeowners usually do not own the mineral rights under their land, oil firms can drill at an angle to go under homes regardless of the desires of residents. Using expensive new technology and drilling techniques, California producers have reversed a long decline of about 5 percent annually with an increased crude flow of about 2 1/2 million barrels in 2007 for the first time in years.   (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
David McNew/Getty Images
In La Habra Heights, a vote next March on whether to ban some types of oil production is already causing controversy, with a lawsuit over the ballot summary. (File photo: Oil rigs extract petroleum in the Los Angeles area community of Culver City, California.)

A vote next March on whether to ban certain types of oil production in the city of La Habra Heights is already causing controversy, as a lawsuit over election language comes to L.A. County Superior Court.

La Habra Heights Oil Watch worked sidewalks and shopping centers to bring Measure A to the March ballot, which takes aim at new wells and non-conventional oil extraction techniques, including fracking.

But another La Habra resident sued, saying the ballot language was misleading. After a hearing on December 1, the city changed the measure to reflect the concerns of resident Jim Pigott.

Now La Habra Heights Oil has sued to get the original language back. The group says the changes imply a ban an oil activity they never sought to stop.

Hollin Kretzmann, a Center for Biological Diversity lawyer representing the group, emphasizes that the ballot initiative as written doesn’t target existing oil rights. “The intent is to leave alone those operations currently happening in La Habra Heights,” he says. “The prohibition would only apply to new operations that begin after Measure A is passed.”

Legal wrangling over the measure is headed to LA Superior Court New Year’s Eve.