The Monterey County Board of Supervisors will not appeal a Superior Court judge’s decision striking down most of Measure Z, which would have shut down oil production in the county, after reaching a settlement agreement Tuesday with plaintiffs, including Aera Energy.
A news release from Monterey County indicated that under the terms of the settlement, the county will avoid the potential for millions of dollars in attorney fees and costs. The pressure of a $36 million budget deficit, and more in the following fiscal year, contributed to the board’s decision.
The settlement allows the county to defend Measure Z’s ban on hydraulic fracturing should that be challenged at a future date.
“Overall, we are pleased with the board’s decision, an action which was also urged by local business leaders, residents and organizations as a prudent use of taxpayer dollars,” said Aera spokeswoman Kathy Miller. “This is good news at a time when the county budget is already significantly strained.
As the appeal moves forward, Aera will continue to weigh our legal options. We will vigorously defend the court’s ruling on Measure Z and the jobs of our hardworking employees.”
In March , Monterey County Superior Court Judge Thomas Wills struck down Measure Z’s ban against the drilling of new wells and disposal of produced water – both of which he determined are preempted by existing state and federal laws.
However, Wills left the issue of whether the measure’s ban on hydraulic fracturing is valid for a future day, stating that Aera and co-petitioners currently “lack standing” to challenge the ban because the process does not take place in the county.
Prior to the settlement, local business leaders, including those from the Monterey Peninsula Chamber of Commerce and Salinas Valley Chamber of Commerce, urged the county not to appeal Wills’ decision because of the potential costs to the county.
With the county’s decision, environmental groups Protect Monterey with their attorneys from the Center for Biological Diversity will go it alone with appealing Wills’ decision.