In January 2017, the Environmental Law Clinic made the trip down to Monterey to meet with one of its newest clients, Protect Monterey County (PMC). PMC is an NGO composed of Monterey citizens concerned about fracking and other enhanced oil exploration techniques. Last year, PMC proposed Measure Z, a ballot initiative that bans new fracking and wastewater injection in the County. Measure Z successfully passed this last election cycle with 56% of the vote.
After the ballot initiative passed in November, several large oil companies challenged Measure Z in court. In response, the County sought a court-ordered stay, potentially delaying implementation of Measure Z indefinitely. But, PMC wants these clean water protections to go into effect now. So ELC, along with the Center for Biological Diversity (Center), has filed a motion to intervene on behalf of PMC and the Center to defend Measure Z.
While Measure Z is on hold pending litigation, a separate process is playing out at the state level that could undermine attempts by Monterey County to rein in fracking. The Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources, the state agency tasked with regulating the oil industry, is currently considering an application for an aquifer exemption from Chevron. This exemption would permit Chevron to continue fracking and injecting wastewater into the San Ardo aquifer in Monterey County. Because the outcome of this hearing may impact the case, ELC students participated in the public comment and hearing process.
On February 9, ELC students Savannah Fletcher (JD ‘18), Aaron Forbath (JD ‘18), and Will Horowitz (JD ‘18) traveled to King City to offer public comments on this proposed aquifer exemption. The ELC arrived an hour before the hearing with members of PMC and the Center to find a crowd of Chevron representatives had already gathered. Shortly after, a large tour bus pulled up with dozens of additional Chevron employees and executives. Once the Division opened its doors, there was a rush to sign up for comment and the ELC students were quick to get their names in. Against a backdrop of over 40 PMC members and supporters holding up signs against the exemption, ELC students provided the legal arguments against granting an aquifer exemption in Monterey County.
Participating in this agency hearing is just one component of a larger strategy to support the goals of PMC. Once the hearing for PMC and the Center for Biological Diversity’s intervention occurs, ELC is hopeful we will join the litigation and have the chance to defend the desires of the people of Monterey County who voted to ban fracking and wastewater injection.