Last November, voters of Monterey County, California, passed a fracking ban known as Measure Z with 56 percent of the vote, despite being outspent 30-to-1 by the industry-backed group, Monterey County Citizens for Energy Independence.
Passing Measure Z makes Monterey the sixth California county to ban fracking, but the first to face a serious legal challenge.
In December, Chevron and Aera Energy, the two biggest companies drilling in Central California's San Ardo fields, both filed lawsuits against Monterey County to block implementation of Measure Z, alleging that it restricts how they can use their property.
The companies were joined by the San Ardo Elementary School District and several individuals who own mineral rights in the oil fields.
How Will Measure Z Measure Up in Court?
Proponents of Measure Z said that re-injecting toxic wastewater, part of the hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") process, contaminates local aquifers that are protected under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. The measure goes further than five other local bans on hydraulic fracturing by also prohibiting the drilling of new oil and gas wells.
Opponents of Z, including the region's hospitality industry, claimed the region would lose millions in tax revenue if Z were to pass, and that California already has the strictest environmental laws in the US
Responding to the lawsuits, Monterey County Superior Court issued a partial stay on Measure Z. The stay blocks the measure's ban on new wells, but not on hydraulic fracturing.