Protect Monterey County to Appeal Decision on Measure Z's Ban on Harmful Oil Industry Practices

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MONTEREY, Calif.— Protect Monterey County and its attorneys announced that they will appeal yesterday’s Monterey County Superior Court decision that overturns portions of Measure Z. Last year Monterey County voters passed Measure Z, an initiative that bans hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), prohibits new oil wells and phases out oil-industry wastewater injection wells.

The court’s decision leaves the fracking ban in place, holding that oil-industry plaintiffs lack standing to challenge it. However, the decision strikes down the ban on new oil and gas wells and wastewater injection, finding these portions are “preempted,” or disallowed, by state and federal law.

“We will appeal this decision,” said Dr. Laura Solorio, president of Protect Monterey County. “We’re confident that a higher court will uphold Measure Z in full and affirm the right of communities to protect themselves from risky oil operations. California law provides local governments with broad authority to protect our air, water and health.”

Measure Z is a citizens’ initiative Protect Monterey County’s volunteers placed on the November 2016 ballot. Oil companies launched a $5.4 million multimedia campaign to stop Measure Z. Despite being outspent 18 to 1, the thousands of Protect Monterey County volunteers prevailed, and Measure Z won with 56 percent of the vote.

After the election, Chevron, Aera Energy (owned by ExxonMobil and Shell), some small oil companies and royalty owners filed six lawsuits challenging Measure Z. Monterey County Superior Court Judge Thomas Wills consolidated the six lawsuits into one trial, which took place from Nov. 13 to Nov. 16. The oil companies were represented by a team of about two dozen lawyers fighting to overturn the voter-approved measure.

Protect Monterey County is represented by Robins Kaplan LLP, the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic and the Center for Biological Diversity.

Measure Z gained new urgency among residents earlier this year when California regulators proposed allowing oil producers to continue pumping oil-waste fluid into protected aquifers near San Ardo. In addition to drinking water contamination, oil-industry wastewater injection has been linked to induced earthquakes. Moreover, according to a Center analysis, oil produced in the San Ardo oilfield is even more climate-damaging than Canadian tar sands crude.

“The oil industry deployed an army of lawyers to attack Measure Z’s health and environmental safeguards,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center’s Climate Law Institute and an attorney on the case. “But the law is on our side and, even if it’s a long battle, we’ll win these long-overdue protections for the people of Monterey.”

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