Stunning Victory: Monterey County Bans Fracking



By Dan Bacher | November 9, 2016 |

The 2016 election results are grim for those who care about water, the environment, the public trust, human rights and the future of this country. But there is one major grassroots environmental victory to celebrate in California — the passage of measure Z to ban fracking in Monterey County, the first major-oil producing county in California to do so.
Passing local measures like Measure Z has become the major strategy that anti-fracking activists have been forced to use to stop fracking in the state.  This is due to the refusal by Governor Jerry Brown and legislators to ban fracking in California because of the enormous influence, money and power that the Western States Petroleum Association and Big Oil wield over the Governor’s Office and Legislature.
On Tuesday, voters in Monterey County, the state’s fourth-largest oil-producing county, passed Measure Z to ban fracking and other dangerous extraction techniques. Measure Z also phases out toxic wastewater injection and prohibits new oil wells in the county.
Monterey is the sixth California county  to ban fracking. The measure won with almost 56  percent of the vote, despite supporters being outspent 30 to one by oil companies, who spent over $5 million. The No on Z spending came directly from Chevron and Aera, the two biggest companies operating in the San Ardo fields, according to Julie Light of Food & Water WAtch. 
“We congratulate the people of Monterey County for banning fracking and protecting California’s water, agriculture, and public health,” said Adam Scow, California Director of Food & Water Watch. “This campaign proves that everyday people can defeat Big Oil’s millions, even in a place where it is actively drilling. We look forward to seeing Californians build on this momentum towards winning a statewide ban on fracking.”
Scow said residents put Measure Z on the ballot after county supervisors in 2015 rejected the unanimous recommendation by the planning commission to enact a moratorium on fracking and wastewater injection.
”While oil companies have fracked in Monterey County, current production in the county’s San Ardo oil field relies on cyclic steam injection, a process that uses massive amounts of water containing toxic chemicals and generates significant greenhouse gas pollution. Measure Z bans this environmentally destructive type of extreme extraction,” according to a joint press release from Food & Water Watch and the Center for Biological Diversity.
The groups said many wells in the county re-inject toxin-laden oil wastewater, contaminating the aquifers below.  Oil companies have been improperly injecting toxic oil wastewater into local aquifers that were supposed to be protected under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. Measure Z will phase out wastewater injection to ensure that such disasters will not be repeated.
"David beat Goliath in Monterey County's stunning victory against oil industry pollution," said Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity. "Despite spending millions, oil companies couldn't suppress this grassroots campaign. This triumph against fracking will inspire communities across California and the whole country to stand up to this toxic industry.”
Siegel added, “The grassroots Protect Monterey County coalition built a powerful alliance of businesses, labor, farmers students, Latinos, homeowners and environmental organizations. In the days leading up to the election, coalition members fanned out across the county going door to door to drum up support for the measure.”
During the campaign, Yes Measure Z supporters reported stolen signs and intimidation tactics by the No on Z campaign. (www.montereycountyweekly.com/…)
The Big Oil Astroturf group Monterey County Citizens for Energy Independence opposed this initiative and helped to launch the No on Measure Z campaign. The Monterey County Hospitality Association and Chevron also opposed the proposal.  
Sabrina Lockhart, a spokesperson for Monterey County Citizens for Energy Independence, said, "Oil production has been a vital part of the Monterey County economy for more than 60 years. California already has the strictest environmental regulations in place."
The group also argued that oil extraction and fracking industry in Monterey County generate 1,651 jobs, $242.4 million in business revenue, and $136.6 million in state and local taxes.
Robin Fleming, a spokesperson for Chevron, said that the state regulations on fracking established by Senate Bill 4 were enough. Fleming said, “A ballot initiative is a waste of taxpayers’ money for something that is not needed.” 
Congratulations to the great coalition of grassroots activists that worked so hard on this campaign during a presidential election that was among the nastiest and most vitriolic in U.S. history! 
Failure of Governor and Legislature to ban fracking statewide made county bans necessary
In spite of California’s “green” image, the state is the third largest oil producer in the nation, right behind North Dakota (second) and Texas (first) . The state’s regulatory apparatus has been completely captured by Big Oil, Big Ag and other corporate interests, resulting in the need for grassroots anti-fracking activists to ban fracking on the local level.  
The California Oil Lobby remains the biggest spender in the 2015-16 legislative session, spending an amazing $32.4 million so far. "That’s the equivalent of dropping $50,750 EVERY DAY since January 1, 2015," reported Stop Fooling California, stopfoolingca.org 
The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) has spent a total of $16,619,272 in the first seven quarters of the 2015-2016 session, the most of any lobbying organization. (cal-access.sos.ca.gov/...)
Jerry Brown is one of the most oil industry-friendly governors in recent California history. In September, the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) opened an investigation into the California Democratic Party in response to a report by a prominent consumer group claiming that the party acted as a “laundry machine” to funnel donations from oil, energy and utility companies to Brown’s 2014 election campaign. 
In her letter to the Santa Monica-based Consumer Watchdog, Galena West, Chief of the FPPC’s Enforcement Division, said the division “will investigate the California Democratic Party for alleged violations of the Political Reform Act’s campaign reporting provisions resulting from information contained in your sworn complaint (Brown’s Dirty Hands Report.)”
Consumer Watchdog released Brown’s Dirty Hands on August 10, 2016, at a time when Brown faces increasing criticism from environmental, consumer and public interest groups regarding administration policies they say favor oil companies, energy companies and utilities over fish, water, people and the environment.
The report tabulated donations totaling $9.8 million dollars to Jerry Brown’s campaigns, causes, and initiatives, and to the California Democratic Party since he ran for Governor from 26 energy companies with business before the state, according to Court. The companies included the state’s three major investor-owned utilities, as well as Occidental, Chevron, and NRG. 
The report alleges that energy companies donated $4.4 million to the Democratic Party, and the Democratic Party gave $4.7 million to Brown’s re-election between 2011 and 2014.  
To read Brown’s Dirty Hands, go here: www.consumerwatchdog.org/...
Photo courtesy Protect Monterey County.


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