PMC FAQ SHEET
Frequently Asked Questions & Answers
Q. The TV ads say that Monterey County’s oil companies are overseen by regulations that are the “toughest in the world." Why is a citizens’ initiative needed?
A. Monterey County is one of the few oil producing counties in California that does not have oil and gas regulations. For decades, the County granted “blanket” permits allowing unlimited oil drilling on thousands of acres near the Salinas River. Over time, the density of oil wells has greatly increased. California’s state regulatory agency, the Division of Geothermal Oil & Gas Resources (DOGGR), has provided little regulatory oversight.
In 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency alerted DOGGR that they have been allowing oil companies to inject wastewater from oil extraction operations into protected aquifers, in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act. Most of the wastewater injection wells in Monterey County currently violate this federal law.
Q. The oil industry says there is no fracking in Monterey County, so why do we need to ban fracking?
A. Fracking and acid well-stimulation treatments have been used for several years in wells in the Bradley area, near the Salinas River. Monterey County granted permits for these activities in 2008 and 2004. These dangerous drilling techniques are used to extract oil from the Monterey Shale Formation, which underlies a significant part of Monterey County. A rise in the price of oil, a volatile global commodity, will propel expanded drilling operations throughout Monterey County's shale formation, according to the Western States Petroleum Association.
Q. How does the local oil industry compare with other sectors of Monterey County’s economy?
A. According to 2015-2016 Monterey County economic reports, the County’s top economic sectors are agriculture, hospitality, higher education/research, health care, and non-profits. The oil industry is too insignificant even to be mentioned as a contributor to the local economy on the County's economic data pages. The revenue to the county is 0.3% of total.
Q. What about the oil industry’s claim that the initiative will threaten almost 2,000 jobs?
A. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ March 2011 data, Monterey County’s oil extraction industry provides no more than 200 jobs. The oil industry’s claim of 1,941 jobs is hugely inflated and, according to Chevron's own lobbyist, includes jobs at Monterey County’s gas station kiosks.
Q. Will this initiative make Monterey County less energy independent? Will it cause the price of gasoline go up?
A. Oil is a commodity that’s traded on the world market. The price of oil is determined by global production and demand. The oil extracted in Monterey County does not stay in our county. In 2015, oil companies successfully lobbied the U.S. government to lift restrictions on oil exports to allow the price of U.S. oil to move higher.
Q. What if I make money by leasing my land for oil drilling?
A. Revenue from leases to oil and gas companies may turn out to be much less lucrative than promised. In 2015, the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office filed a lawsuit against Chesapeake Energy, on behalf of many citizens who claimed to be defrauded after leasing their land for fracking. Additionally, many property owners have surface rights but do not own the mineral rights. This means other people can come onto their property and drill for oil without their permission. Property rights do not allow for harm to neighboring residents or property owners.
Q. Why are regular people trying to write complicated land use laws? Shouldn’t this be left this to the experts?
A. Our Monterey County Supervisors have failed to take action to protect our water, health, and economy. The California initiative process was established more than a century ago for just these kinds of situations. If our elected officials are not doing their job, citizens can use the initiative process to enact laws. Protect Monterey County hired the respected law firm, Shute, Mihaly and Weinberger. They are experts in land use law and have worked with many community groups to write initiatives that have withstood legal scrutiny.
Q. Will the initiative trigger lawsuits that could bankrupt Monterey County?
A. In 2014, the oil industry threatened to bankrupt San Benito County after it passed a citizens’ initiative to ban fracking and high risk oil extraction. San Benito faced a lawsuit in 2015, which was dropped. To date, San Benito County has paid only $684 to defend its citizens’ initiative. Monterey County’s initiative was written by the same attorneys who wrote San Benito’s initiative. The Initiative is based on land use laws, which the courts have historically upheld.
Q. Can’t we ask our elected officials to protect us?
A. Over 1,800 people petitioned Monterey County officials in 2014 to protect their community from fracking and dangerous oil extraction. In response, the Monterey Planning Commission recommended that the County adopt a moratorium on fracking and acid well stimulation, and also draft specific oil and gas regulations like those in neighboring counties. In 2015, after almost a year of lobbying by the oil industry, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors rejected the recommendations of its Planning Commission and failed to enact any protections.