After a three-day hearing in November of 2017, oil companies operating in Monterey County were granted a partial victory against Measure Z, which sought to ban oil production in the county. On Dec. 29, Monterey County Superior Court Judge Thomas Wills issued an intended ruling that overturned key elements of the measure that banned the drilling of new wells and disposal of produced water, but he kept in place a ban on hydraulic fracturing, which is currently not being done in the county.
The following is Aera’s statement on the decision:
Monterey County Superior Court Judge Thomas Wills issued his “intended decision” in the Measure Z cases, and we are in the process of reviewing that 51-page decision. While the decision won’t be final for some time, we are pleased the court recognized that the extensive existing web of state and federal regulations governing oil field operations in San Ardo preempt aspects of Measure Z. This is particularly important with respect to Measure Z’s prohibitions against drilling of new wells and disposal of produced water, both of which are necessary for continued oil production in the San Ardo field. Judge Wills determined that those aspects of Measure Z are preempted and are therefore invalid.
We do, however, disagree with the court’s ruling that Aera lacks standing to challenge the portion of Measure Z banning hydraulic fracturing because Aera and the other producers do not currently conduct fracturing in Monterey County. While the court deferred until another day a decision on the merits of whether the hydraulic fracturing aspect of Measure Z also is preempted, we continue to believe that Measure Z’s hydraulic fracturing ban is preempted by overlapping state and federal law. We are exploring our options to address this issue as we move forward.
We have said from the beginning that Measure Z cannot be lawfully applied and are pleased with this decision overall. This decision, once final, is good for the residents of Monterey County who will avoid paying further millions in legal costs. The county will continue to benefit from the hundreds of jobs and essential county services that oil production helps to fund in Monterey County. The oil we produce allows millions of Californians to travel to work every day, businesses to grow and thrive and Monterey County-grown food to arrive at dinner tables every night. Aera remains committed to safely and responsibly producing oil in Monterey County – as we have done for the past 65 years.