California appeals court upholds decision repealing fracking ban
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California appeals court upholds decision repealing fracking ban

The Court of Appeal of the State of California has upheld a decision striking down a Monterey County order banning “land use in support of” fracking practices in oil and gas development.

The appeals court stated that “Measure Z”, which introduced the impugned land-use policies, was preempted by state law. Section 3106 of the California Public Resources Code “explicitly provides” that the state has jurisdiction over the implementation of oil and gas wells and other operations; the court upheld that the land-use policies introduced through Measure Z, in effect, conflicted with this explicit jurisdiction.

Measure Z was passed by voters of Monterey Country in November of 2016. The measure identified its purpose as protecting the county’s water, agricultural land, air quality and quality of life by “prohibit[ing] and phas[ing] out land uses in support of oil and gas wastewater . . . disposal” and “prohibit[ing] drilling new oil and gas wells in the County’s unincorporated area.”

The impugned land-use policies barred wastewater injection and impoundment, the storage and treatment of the waste created through oil and gas production, as well as land use that supported the drilling of new oil and gas wells in the designated areas.

The trial court rejected the idea that the policies simply were a land-use prohibition and instead declared that Measure Z sought to “[regulate] the conduct of oil and gas operation or their permitted location.” Because oil and gas development is firmly within state jurisdiction, the policies were preempted by state law and struck down in accordance with article XI, section 7, of the California Constitution.

The result of this decision will allow oil and gas companies to continue using the process of fracking as an extraction method within the county. However, California has moved to ban fracking by 2024, and wants to halt all oil extraction within the state by 2025. Fracking accounts for approximately 1.5 percent of California’s oil production, but the method is contentious because fracking has been linked to earthquakes, water contamination, and oil spills.