When the oil companies, landowners and mineral rights owners sued Monterey County late last year, the plaintiffs’ side of the courtroom was packed with lots of lawyers.
They were suing the county over Measure Z, the fracking ban voters approved in 2016.
The plaintiffs pretty much won. The Monterey County Superior Court judge ruled the county could not ban the drilling of new oil wells or to order the phase out of injecting oil production wastewater back into the ground.
But since fracking doesn’t currently happen in Monterey County, the judge said that ban is okay.
Monterey County counsel Charles McKee says the county will continue enforce and defend the fracking ban. However, it will not appeal the rest of the judge’s decision.
“I think the majority of people who voted for the initiative voted for it for the fracking ban, and we thought that was the important, most important, thing to uphold,” says McKee.
The county’s $36-million deficit is another factor. In exchange for abandoning the appeal, the oil companies and other plantiffs have agreed not to come after the county for all those attorney costs and legal fees.
Dr. Laura Solorio is the President of Protect Monterey County. The group has long maintained it is the county's the responsiblity to appeal the judge's decision, so she's disappointed.
But PMC has filled its own appeal to the judge's decision. She says the other two parts of the measure matter.
“One is not injecting wastewater. This is injected into injection wells that, you know I guess people feel very secure that that's all that water is going to stay there. But really the water of the future is from deep aquifers. And so we need to protect those aquifers,” says Solorio.
Protect Monterey County is getting legal support from the Center For Biological Diversity and the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic. Its also raising money for the legal fight.