California Court of Appeal Strikes Down Monterey County’s Ban on New Oil Wells
A California appellate court has ruled against a Monterey County ban on new oil and gas wells, possibly paving the way for Chevron and a bevy of smaller oil companies to begin drilling new wells.
A California appellate court has ruled against a Monterey County ban on new oil and gas wells, possibly paving the way for Chevron and a bevy of smaller oil companies to begin drilling new wells and using extraction techniques that environmental groups say are potentially damaging to localized water supplies.
The ruling on 12 October by a three-judge panel of the California Court of Appeal for the Sixth Appellate District effectively stripped the power of Monterey County to regulate certain oil and gas exploration and operations in the unincorporated areas of the county, stating that a county cannot usurp the regulatory authority of the state.
The ban was approved by voters in November 2016 by passing Measure Z, called “Protect Our Water: Ban Fracking and Limit Risky Oil Operations Initiative,” which was written by the nonprofit group Protect Monterey County. It proposed to amend the county’s General Plan by adding three new land-use policies: prohibiting well-stimulation treatments, wastewater injection, and drilling new oil and gas wells.
With two of those policies—banning wastewater injection and banning new oil and gas wells—the appellate court ruled that they conflicted with the state’s authority to regulate such operations. Wastewater injection places fluids underground in porous rock to loosen trapped oil or gas deposits. The fluids can be waste water, brine, or water mixed with chemicals.
Well stimulation was dropped from the case because none of the oil companies were using or proposing to use that particular kind of extraction, the three-judge panel ruled. The ruling brought immediate condemnation from Protect Monterey County.
“This ruling flies in the face of local people who just want to protect ourselves and our groundwater from filthy oil and gas production,” said Laura Solorio, president of Protect Monterey County, in a statement. “Voters spoke loud and clear that we want to move away from the polluting fossil fuel industry. We’ll keep fighting for voters to be heard.”