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Oil companies sue Monterey County over Measure Z

Aera Energy alleges the county doesn't have the authority to ban fracking.

Aera Energy  and Chevron have filed separate lawsuits against Monterey County, alleging the passage of Measure Z will shut down oil production in the county. 

In November, Monterey County became the seventh county in California to ban fracking with Measure Z. The ballot initiative passed with 56 percent of the vote. The county is home to several oil fields, including the San Ardo oil field.

Aera'a lawsuit - filed in Monterey County's Superior Court on Wednesday - demands a jury trial. In the complaint, the company's attorneys state that for decades Aera has "invested in, planned, and carried out its intent to fully develop and produce its oil and gas resources at the San Ardo Field...Measure Z will end oil and gas production in the county by any means."

Chevron says the county will be liable for hundreds of millions of dollars in damages "resulting from the illegal termination of oil and gas property rights." 

"As a result of Measure Z, public agencies such as Monterey County and San Ardo Union Elementary School District will lose millions of dollars in tax revenue, small businesses will lose a significant source of local revenue and citizens will lose jobs," Chevron spokesperson Brenda Cosola wrote in an email to KCBX Thursday afternoon. "To avoid this outcome, Chevron, the San Ardo Union Elementary School District, and several small businesses have joined together to file a lawsuit challenging Measure Z on the grounds that it exceeds the County’s authority to regulate the oil and gas industry."

Measure Z proponents said during the campaign the ban does not prohibit the continuing operation of the county's existing 1,500 oil and gas wells. According to the Yes on Z campaign's summary of the initiative, it bans "fracking, acidizing and other risky well stimulation treatments...bans new wastewater injection wells and wastewater ponds...[and] bans new oil and gas wells within Monterey County."

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