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Protect Monterey County files appeal to Measure Z ruling

Greta Mart/KCBX
Pumpjacks at the San Ardo oil field, with the Salinas River in the foreground.

Monterey County’s voter approved fracking ban will go back to court on appeal. 

Late last year, a Monterey County Superior Court judge struck down much of Measure Z leaving business as usual for the oil industry in south county.

The grassroots organization Protect Monterey County thinks the judge got it wrong. He upheld the fracking ban. But he ruled the county could not ban the drilling of new oil wells or order the phase out of injecting oil production wastewater back into the ground. That would preempt state and federal law.

“We are confident that the appeals court is going to see it our way,” said Hollin Kretzmann, staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity and part of the legal team defending Measure Z.

“California reserves a lot of power to local governments. There's a long line of California cases that upholds these types of zoning and land use measures that are intended to protect public health and safety,” said Kretzmann.

Although Protect Monterey County was an intervener in the case, it can appeal even if the defendant, Monterey County, doesn’t.

The County has filed its own notice of appeal. But whether or not it will actually follow through with an appeal is up to the Monterey County Board of Supervisors. They have not made a decision.

“I think while elected officials may have their own personal views and interests. I think it's important that they support voters,” said Dr. Laura Solorio with Protect Monterey County.

Measure Z was passed by Monterey County voters in November 2016 with 56% of the vote.

“I don't think Measure Z has changed how we operate in the least,” said Aera Energy spokesperson Kathy Miller.

Aera Energy has operations in San Ardo and was one of the plaintiffs in the six original lawsuits filed against Monterey County.

“You know for 65 years we've been responsibly and safely producing oil here in Monterey County, and we expect that to continue for a long time to come,” said Miller.

She added Aera Energy expects an appeals court will continue to see much of Measure Z as invalid.

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