By Amy Wu, The Salinas Californian
The controversy over fracking in Monterey County is far from over even though Measure Z which bans it passed during the November 2016 election.
Tuesday’s public workshop on Measure Z at the County Board of Supervisors meeting drew a packed audience. The crowd represented various interests including big oil companies, environmentalists, and community members who shared their concerns and thoughts with the board of supervisors, as the county staff continues to modify what is an early draft of the ordinance.
This is the first public workshop on Measure Z since the community meeting in March, and a revised ordinance is expected to be presented to the board in September. The brunt of Tuesday’s discussion focused on exemptions and to what extent they should exist, and be granted.
As it stands, Measure Z allows the county to grant exemptions to prevent an unconstitutional taking of private property and to protect vested rights. The county can also grant an extension of a reasonable amortization period. While there is an automatic five-year phase out for oil and gas wastewater injection or wastewater impoundment, the time allotted for the “phase out period” can be determined on a case-by-case basis with up to ten additional years.
The public Workshop of Measure Z drew a packed audience at Tuesday's Monterey County Board of Supervisors meeting. (Photo: Amy Wu / The Californian)
During public comment, dozens of speakers representing the various interests shared their perspectives, concerns, and frustrations.
Oil companies including Aera Energy LLC, a natural gas, and oil company jointly-owned by Shell and ExxonMobil based in Bakersfield, support the exemptions and are against Measure Z. Kathy Miller, a public relations representative for Aera Energy representing Monterey County, said the company has been operating safely for 65 years. Earlier this year the company sued the county over Measure Z.
“Essentially what Measure Z will do is shut our operations down in the county. We are concerned about protecting jobs, and protecting tax dollars that come to Monterey County,” Miller said. Other Aera Energy representatives stressed that producing petroleum is critical to the future of the state.
On the opposing side, nearly 50 members Protect Monterey County attended Tuesday’s bidding. The pro Measure Z organization argues that big oil companies could use the exemptions to continue their practices. Many of its members urged the board of supervisors to make exemptions the rarity.
“I have a specific concern about waste water injection exemptions. I think exemptions should be very limited,” said Andy Hsia-Coron head of the legal committee of Protect Monterey County.
Dr. Laura Solorio, MD, president of Protect Monterey County said the supervisors need to “maximize public input and support complete transparency…We ask you to not provide loopholes for the oil industry to circumvent the law.”
Others reminded the board of supervisors and county staff that Measure Z was passed to protect the environment, including water and the overall health and wellness of residents.
Alan Haffa, chair of the Monterey County Democratic Party and Monterey City Councilmember, said the Democratic Party “endorses Measure Z because of the importance of protecting the safety of our water and public’s role in protecting our health. We urge you to use your powers in implementing Measure Z so you respect its intent.”
Dr. Laura Solorio, MD and president of Protect Monterey County addresses the Board of Supervisors at Tuesday's meeting (Photo: Amy Wu / The Californian)
Find the article online: http://www.thecalifornian.com/story/news/2017/07/26/interests-diverge-over-monterey-countys-measure-z/511204001/
Contact Government Reporter Amy Wu at 831-737-6791 or email@example.com. Follow Wu on Twitter @wu_salnews or www.facebook.com/amywucalifornian.