Analysis of the decision in Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. County of Monterey et al. on local oil and gas phase out efforts

Gabriel Greif

After the California Supreme Court ruled in 2023 that Monterey County could not enforce its voter-approved ban on new oil and gas wells, there has been a wave of threatened and actual litigation by the oil and gas industry against local ordinances seeking to constrain oil and gas development. This has generated regulatory uncertainty and may chill local governments not already subject to litigation in their efforts to rightfully exercise their land use authority. This policy report explores the issue and concludes that legislative amendments to section 3106 or other provisions of the Public Resources Code could improve regulatory certainty, reduce the likelihood and potential costs of litigation, and prevent uneven application of the law amongst lower courts.

The paper also points to the benefits of Assembly Bill (AB) 3233, which aims to achieve these goals by amending section 3106 to allow localities to regulate or ban particular methods and practices of oil and gas extraction. This could ameliorate any potential chilling effect on local government action and reduce the risk of litigation.

Gabe Greif authored this policy report while an Emmett/Frankel Fellow in Environmental Law and Policy at UCLA School of Law for 2022-2024. All views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.

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