Supreme Court Quashes Monterey’s Ban On New Oil Wells

A 2016 ballot measure that banned new oil and gas wells in unincorporated Monterey County has been defanged by the California Supreme Court. On Thursday, the court ruled the county could not enforce the ban because it is preempted by state law.

“By providing that certain oil production methods may never be used by anyone, anywhere, in the County, Measure Z nullifies — and therefore contradicts — section 3106’s mandate that the state 'shall' supervise oil operation in a way that permits well operators to 'utilize all methods and practices' the supervisor has approved," Associate Justice Martin Jenkins wrote.

Kevin Bundy represents Protect Monterey County, the organization that pushed for the ballot measure. According to Bundy, the court’s decision hinged on language specific to Measure Z, making this a rather narrow court decision. 

But the impact is significant, and it’s one being applauded by energy companies like Chevron, which was part of the lawsuit against Monterey.

"Measure Z went too far," said the plaintiffs’ attorney Ted Boutrous Jr. "It's not just a zoning ordinance, but an attempt to suffocate oil and gas production under the guise of an anti-fracking ordinance."

Read more about the ruling at Courthouse News Service.