The vast Salinas River Groundwater Basin flows Northwest following the Salinas River where it empties into Monterey Bay. This area was made famous by author John Steinbeck in his novel East of Eden. Besides providing drinking water it irrigates the rich agricultural region of the Salinas Valley (“Americas Salad Bowl”). The area is also home to several oil fields the largest being the San Ardo Oil Field which has been producing oil for over seventy years. Some concerned citizens and environmental groups have claimed that the use of “fracking”, acid well stimulation treatments, and the disposal of oil and gas wastewater in ponds and wells, and the unabated drilling of new oil and gas wells have and will cause harm to the County’s citizens and environment. The oil and gas operators say that oil and gas operations have been conducted for over 70 years without any detrimental environmental or health effects and that cutting back and eventually ceasing oil operations will have a serious negative effect on the local economy. They point out that hundreds of jobs are at risk and declining tax revenues will exact a severe economic hardship on local school district budgets. The Monterey County Supervisors rejected a fracking moratorium in 2015, so local residents drafted an initiative to ban fracking and limit future drilling , well stimulation operations, and restrict disposal of water produced with oil. They collected 16,000 signatures and got an initiative on the November, 2016 general election ballot known as Measure Z.
The Town Hall seminar will address each of these issues and involves students assuming the roles of key players including oil company executives, environmental organization leaders, California state regulatory agency officials, state and local legislators, and royalty owners. Local business owners and nearby residents will voice their concerns about economic effects, health and safety.
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