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California County Voters Pass Ban on Oil/Gas Drilling, Fracking

Although it has little oil/natural gas activity, voters in California's central coast Monterey County approved a ballot measure banning new oil/gas development in the county, including the use of well stimulation techniques such as hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

Measure Z was passed by 55.5% of the votes, 32,596 yes to 26,108 no.

Portrayed by its supporters as a ban on all new oil/gas activity, passage of the measure, according to the county's general plan, bans the use of fracking, and "other high-intensity methods of oil and gas extraction, such as acid stimulation," as well as banning new oil and gas operations in the county and phasing out operational oil and gas wells.

An anti-fracking group, Protect Monterey County, supported Measure Z and helped qualify it for the ballot.

In 2014, the five-member county board of supervisors rejected (3-2) imposing a proposed two-year moratorium on fracking. Following that, a group of county residents began a citizen initiative leading to Measure Z.

The newly passed measure amends the Monterey County General Plan, Local Coastal Program, and Fort Ord Master Plan to: "(1) prohibit the use of land within the county’s unincorporated (non-city) areas for hydraulic fracturing treatments, acid well stimulation treatments, and other well stimulation treatments; (2) prohibit new and phase out existing land uses that utilize oil and gas wastewater injection and impoundment; and, (3) prohibit the drilling of new oil and gas wells in the county’s unincorporated areas."

As has been done in similar local measures enacted in other states (see Shale Daily, Feb. 25, 2013), Measure Z was proposed as a way to further protect the quality of local water supplies as stated in its language.

Proponents in the county said they were not sure the local measure would stand up in the face of state rules regarding well stimulation techniques and fracking that were implemented last year as a result of state law SB 4 (see Shale Daily, July 10, 2015). At that time separate state and Kern County studies concluded that fracking has done no harm and can be used safely.

Despite the report's findings, environmental groups have continued to stress that the reports contained references to "unknown risks," which they contend supports the need for more study and safer practices.

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