Organic Farmer Madeline Clark is worried that oil production in Monterey County will destroy local aquifers and put her out of business
Madeline Clark is an organic farmer and a leading proponent of Measure Z, a ballot initiative that would ban fracking and phase out wastewater injection in California’s Monterey County. Measure Z, which will be decided on November 8, is the only fracking ban on the ballot in the country. Monterey County is home to Chevron’s San Ardo oil fields. Oil producers inject wastewater into local aquifers, in violation of the Federal Clean Drinking Water Act. Inaction by local officials prompted residents to put Measure Z on the ballot.
Madeline Clark is afraid that Big Oil will put her out of business. Clark sells herbs and jams at local farmers markets grown on her 12-acre farm in Monterey County. State officials test her groundwater to certify her produce as organic. But with oil companies injecting toxic fracking wastewater into Monterey’s aquifers, Clark believes that all produce in the county’s agricultural Salinas Valley is at risk. “The thought that the oil industry can contaminate our water supply is mind boggling,” she said.
Protect Monterey County, which organized the ballot campaign, is a broad coalition that includes farmers like Clark, foodies from upscale coastal towns and Latino families in Salinas. Clark says the coalition has tapped into a broad, non-partisan interest. “I consider myself a staunch conservative. This is not about being a tree-hugging environmentalist. The issue is our health and safety.”
There are several major faults running under the county, and residents are concerned that fracking will increase the likelihood of earthquakes. They are also concerned about the impacts of oil drilling on their jobs. One out of every four jobs in the county is in agriculture. And Monterey County, America’s salad bowl, grows a huge portion of the nation’s vegetables—61 percent of the lettuce consumed in the U.S. is grown in Monterey County.
Meanwhile, oil companies like Chevron and Aera have poured $4.3 million into efforts to defeat the initiative and the Yes on Z campaign is being outspent by more than 23 to 1.
Measure Z has won an impressive list of endorsements from teachers, nurses and hotel workers’ unions to United Farmworkers legend Dolores Huerta to celebrities like actor Mark Ruffalo and Mexican rock star Ruben Albarran of Café Tacvba.
As Election Day nears, Clark hopes that virtually unlimited fossil fuel money will prove no match for Protect Monterey County’s small army of volunteers. If the measure passes, Monterey will become the sixth California county to ban fracking. Momentum throughout California for a full statewide ban on fracking is rising—and with our supporters help we can win the fight for Z.