For Immediate Release, January 26, 2022

Contact:

Andy Hsia-Coron, Protect Monterey County, (831) 206-2597, andyhc7@gmail.com
Hollin Kretzmann, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 844-7133, hkretzmann@biologicaldiversity.org

California Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Measure Z Oil, Gas Protections Case

Court Will Determine Fate of Local Ordinance Restricting Oil Extraction, Pollution

SAN FRANCISCO— The California Supreme Court announced today that it will take up the years-long legal fight over Measure Z, a ballot initiative that would block oil and gas development in Monterey County.

Overwhelmingly approved by Monterey County voters in 2016, Measure Z would prohibit land uses that support new oil and gas wells. It would also phase out oil industry wastewater disposal over the next five to 15 years.

Oil companies and other industry-friendly plaintiffs launched a series of lawsuits against the county before Measure Z could take effect. A trial court and appellate court ruled that Measure Z was invalid because the restrictions conflicted with state oil and gas laws. The state Supreme Court could now overturn the lower court’s ruling.

“Measure Z supporters are excited to make their case that local governments should be allowed to protect communities and the environment against oil industry pollution,” said Dr. Laura Solorio, president of Protect Monterey County. “We are confident that Measure Z and the will of the voters will prevail in the end.”

As proponents of Measure Z, Dr. Solorio and Protect Monterey County filed a petition to the California Supreme Court in November, urging the state’s high court to hear an appeal and ultimately overturn the lower court’s decision. Each year, the California Supreme Court agrees to consider only a small percentage of cases from parties seeking review.

“The law is on our side against these toxic oil companies, and I think the Supreme Court will see it that way too,” said Hollin Kretzmann, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute, part of the team representing Protect Monterey County in the case. “In agreeing to hear this case, the court signals that there may be problems with the lower court's ruling that have big ramifications for local efforts to rein in dangerous oil and gas projects.”

Many local governments have increased efforts to protect frontline communities and stop fossil fuel’s local pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. The oil industry has responded with lawsuits throughout the state.

“Local governments have always had a constitutional right to control or prohibit dangerous activities,” said Professor Deborah Sivas, director of the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic and one of the attorneys representing the Measure Z proponents. “The appellate court opinion got a lot wrong about how state law fits with local law. We need the Supreme Court to restore the balance we had before this erroneous decision.”

Local residents formed Protect Monterey County to advocate for health and environmental protections against oil production in the county. After the county’s board of supervisors rejected commonsense protections, the group gathered support for the Protect Our Water: Ban Fracking and Limit Risky Oil Operations Initiative, which became Measure Z. The oil industry ran a multimillion-dollar opposition campaign, but voters approved the measure by a 12-point margin.

Shortly after Measure Z passed in November 2016, a slew of oil interests, including the state’s largest oil companies, Chevron, Aera Energy and California Resources Corporation, sued the county.

Protect Monterey County and Dr. Laura Solorio are represented by Shute Mihaly & Weinberger LLP, Robins Kaplan LLP, Stanford Environmental Law Clinic and the Center for Biological Diversity.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.