Inside Aera
Community Feb 20, 2018

Taxpayer-backed Measure Z appeal faces growing opposition by local business, ag and residents

In the wake of a judge’s ruling striking down much of Measure Z, business groups and residents in Monterey County are voicing their opposition to a potential taxpayer-funded appeal of the measure that sought to ban oil production in the county.

During a meeting earlier this month, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors heard from speakers opposed to the county’s defense of Measure Z. The Salinas Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Monterey Peninsula Chamber of Commerce helped form a coalition that sent letters opposing a county-backed appeal.

Earlier this month, Monterey County Superior Court Judge Thomas Wills issued a ruling against two of the three provisions of Measure Z. Wills found that the measure was preempted by existing state and federal laws. The judge deferred a decision on the measure’s hydraulic fracturing ban because the process does not take place in the county. County business leaders say the ruling is strong.

“In the coming days or weeks, you will be considering whether or not the county should appeal the recent court decision that invalidated most of Measure Z,” said Frank Geisler, a former chairman of the board at both chambers. “The chambers are leading a coalition of residents, organizations and businesses operating in Monterey County to urge you to be prudent with taxpayers’ dollars and not appeal the court’s decision related to Measure Z.

“Others have indicated that they will appeal, but we believe for the county to also do so would be a waste of taxpayer dollars…especially when the county budget is already significantly strained.”

Geisler was one of nearly a dozen speakers at the Feb. 6 meeting, and he was joined by other prominent Monterey County business leaders.

According to The Monterey Herald, County Counsel Charles McKee said the county wouldn’t make a decision about an appeal until the final ruling was made. However, groups that backed the measure have said they will appeal, and are urging the county to defend the measure further.

During the Board of Supervisors meeting, according to the Salinas Californian, Monterey County Farm Bureau Executive Director Norm Groot said his organization got involved because of the property rights issues Measure Z raised.

“We believe the Superior Court ruled correctly in protecting those property rights simply by permitting state law to override local mandate here,” Groot said during the meeting, according to the Salinas Californian newspaper. “The county should be on the side of protecting our jobs and our economy here, and I think the courts have clearly stated now that we are correct in keeping our petroleum industry as a vital economy element here. Taxpayer dollars should not be spent on a legal decision. Let others pay for the appeal.

“As you can see by the letter,” Groot said, “there’s a strong coalition of agricultural, business and other interests who are telling you, at this point, enough is enough. The courts have ruled. Let it stand.”

Oil production has been a key part of Monterey County’s economy for more than 65 years, and provides significant tax revenue, including to the community of San Ardo, where Aera Energy and Chevron operate. Oil production generates more than $112 million in annual taxes and fees.

The potential loss of tax revenue from Measure Z is already being felt in San Ardo, where school administrators have held off from issuing voter-approved bonds that would provide much needed school improvements.

 

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