More News

“Protect Our Water” Initiative Qualifies for November Ballot

San Benito Rising group hands in three times the amount of signatures needed.
Mary and Andy Hsia-Coron turn in more than 4,000 signatures to election officials.
Mary and Andy Hsia-Coron turn in more than 4,000 signatures to election officials.

Hollister, Calif. – On April 28, the San Benito County Election office certified that San Benito Rising (SBR), a volunteer grassroots group of concerned citizens, has enough petition signatures to qualify an initiative measure to ban fracking and other extreme oil extraction techniques in the county. The group submitted 4,180 signatures. The Election Office's random sample projected at least 2,642 valid signatures had been submitted, 1000 more signatures than required to qualify the measure. The initiative will be on the November ballot -- unless the Supervisors vote to enact the initiative themselves, which is unlikely.


Attorneys representing the oil and gas industry sent a blustering letter to the County supervisors in mid-April threatening a lawsuit against San Benito County should county voters pass the measure. SBR’s spokesperson Andy Hsia-Coron was not surprised by what he says is a “cut and paste job that ignores the County’s and, by extension, the voters’ traditional local zoning authority .”


The power of initiative is enshrined in the California Constitution. It allows voters to use the initiative process to place measures on the ballot, used when the populace feels their elected officials are ignoring them.


“The industry and their lobbyists show utter contempt and no respect for this county,” said Hsia-Coron. “They want to use the courts to bypass the will of the people. We agree with our legal team’s conclusion that the industry’s scare tactics lack merit.”


Indeed, oil and gas proponents are already spreading misinformation about the carefully crafted initiative, saying that it “bans all oil and gas extraction.” That is patently false. The initiative allows for conventional methods of extraction except in residential areas. In addition, it allows frackers and cyclic steam extractors one year to roll up operations in the county.


Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is a technique used by oil and gas companies to break open hard rock in order to access deeply-buried deposits. The process generates massive amounts of “produced” wastewater that contains known carcinogens including benzene, toluene, naphthalene and acrylamide. Other high intensity petroleum extraction methods like cyclic steam injection also generate huge amounts of wastewater which can contain heavy metals and radioactive substances. This wastewater is injected underground or stored in evaporation ponds, which can leak. 


If the measure passes, San Benito will be one of California’s first counties to ban high intensity petroleum operations (fracking, cyclic steam injection, acid matrix stimulation and acid fracking) in a “frontline county,” where drillers have already started to tap into the oil and gas hidden in the depths of the Monterey Shale and other formations.


On May 1, concerned citizens of Santa Barbara County are also expected to file their signed petitions in a similar initiative, and Butte County residents are also working on a fracking ban in their area.


For more information, contact Kate Woods at 831-693-4533 or Andy Hsia-Coron at 831-726-3350. San Benito Rising’s website is

BenitoLink Logo

Become a Member Today

Support your local independent news.

We work hard to give you the news and information you need. By becoming a member, you will be part of something bigger; BenitoLink, your community-supported news source.


fkwoods's picture
Kate Woods (fkwoods)

Like the proverbial cat, Frances Kate Woods has had many lives - award-winning journalist, mariachi violinist, editor of a daily publication on space exploration, pet portraitist, environmental activist, drug-war antagonist, columnist, actress, and libertarian candidate for the 28th assembly seat in California. She self-published "Quicksilver Chronicles in August of 2011, with a second amended edition in March 2012. She was lead writer and a columnist for The Pinnacle newspaper in its' heyday from 1998 through 2006 before it was trashed by its new publishers and editor. She still lives near the abandoned ghost town of New Idria, Calif., where she continues to champion environmental causes and happily depicts pets and other animals in a variety of sparkling media on canvas.


Submitted by (Tod duBois) on

Oh bother - another distraction from dealing with real issues - fracking may or may not be any good but local teen drug use, struggling schools, poor local economy and all the other things that make us less competitive don't get any attention. Shame, Napa County, SLO County, Monterey County, San Francisco County, Marin County and other wonderful, interesting and successful places have not bothered with this kind of fight.

fkwoods's picture
Submitted by Kate Woods (fkwoods) on

Actually, Mr. duBois, I believe Marin County has placed a moratorium on fracking, San Luis and Monterey are highly involved in the fight against fracking, and Napa and San Francisco are not "frontline" counties, like ours, which the oil and gas industry has set its sights on. However, San Francisco is also very active in the fight against this toxic form of extraction, as they organized two busloads of protesters which gathered with some 4,000 others from counties as far away as San Diego -- and San Benito -- for a protest in Sacramento last March 15th.

admin's picture
Submitted by BenitoLink Administrator (admin) on

The above comment has been edited to comply with BenitoLink's Terms of Use, which state: 

You will not use or allow your account to be used for any illegal or prohibited content, which includes, but is not limited to, content that harasses, degrades, intimidates or is hateful toward an individual or group of individuals.

Submitted by (Robert Scoles) on

I have looked at Mr. duBois comment and wonder how one is able to respond without violating BenitoLink standards. There are historic and geological factors all the above mentioned have that San Benito County does not have. Each of the counties also has major pockets within its' boundaries where the same issues (drug use, education, poor "local" economy) are not being addressed. Here is my problem...How do you address the issue of "people are more educated" without getting personal? Ouch, ok I said it but we all have to PUT UP with it!

This proposal bans ALL oil exploration and recovery in all "rural" zones, it is not just ban fracturing.  Therefore, if anyone claims this ban is merely about fracturing that would be inaccurate; to even leave that impression would be misleading.

Since a primary linked site for added information - the Center for Biological Diversity - supports banning ALL oil recovery from Monterey Shale and allowing only 20% oil recovery nationwide, is it the intention of SBR to support the same?

As for being farmer friendly, the CBD accuses the Department of Agriculture of running an “out-of-control, wildlife-killing agency” because they protect livestock and agricultural land from predators. (quote from a current CBD petition).

What level, if any, of cooperation, support and collaboration to San Benito Rising or for this measure involves the Center for Biological Diversity? (editied to clarify question)

Marty Richman


Submitted by (Andy Hsia-Coron) on

Read the initiative a little closer Marty and look at the county's oil and gas regs. Yes, the initiative bans cyclic steam, acidizing, and fracking throughout the county. But, the initiative only bans conventional oil and gas in rural residential areas. That leaves conventional extraction clearance to continue in agricultural lands and ranch lands. Time to stop misrepresenting the initiative.

Submitted by (Tod duBois) on

The point is we don't know - hence the need more education. Rallying people politically is a known and controllable process but to what end? There is little to zero actual fracking going on in SBC, so do we have a problem or just a potential problem? Are we at risk or just guessing? Getting people to sign a petition using fear tactics is easy - getting SBC on the right path to a diversified economy, equitable standards of living and of course raising the average household income from just over $50,000 to a place like St/ Helena (small town) which is $85,000 per household is hard. Let's work the hard problems please. Warm fuzzies like beating up oil and gas which is probably needed but not really needed here - again fight the good fight - not just the feel good fight.

Submitted by (Andy Hsia-Coron) on

Todd, Yes you are right, at this point we have little actual fracking happening here in San Benito County. As a matter of fact, there is only relatively moderate fracking activity going on in the whole state. The reason why people are organizing across the state is that the status quo is not likely to remain if we take what the oil and gas industry is telling us and its investors. They are anticipating that the Monterey Shale that underlies much of California will be one of the biggest oil shale plays in U.S. History, and that's when the enhanced extraction boom (fracking, acidizing, cyclic steam and hybrids of these techniques) will begin in earnest and spread like cancer. The oil and gas industry has invested tens of millions of dollars in preparing the political climate in the state for their anticipated boom. And that boom is not compatible with a drought ridden state that depends on agriculture and tourism for much of its revenues and economic security.

Less than a year ago, as the fracking issue became more on my radar screen, I had a conversation with a young man who is a family friend (who for obvious reasons will remain unnamed) who despite his environmental engineering degree could only find employment in the oil and gas industry back east helping to site and mitigate the effects of pipelines to carry the industry's product. He has a great deal of ambivalence about this employment, but it pays his debts and bills. We asked him for his advice and he said, "stop them before they get started" because he said it would be much more difficult once they got their permits and used their investor's moneys to make major capital investment. We took that advice to heart, and I think that all residents of San Benito County and other frontline counties should do the same. In this case an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure.

Submitted by (Sara Steiner) on

San Benito Rising is a great source for information on fracking locally and nation wide. See Let's get the facts out there and let the people decide.

Submitted by (Tod duBois) on

Andy, my point is a lot of effort is being spent on this and there are much bigger issues and problems that are losing out because this will turn into a big expensive fight for potentially nothing of value. I love a good fight but for all you initiative signatures know this could be all wrong. The case you articulated is fear mongering when you have no clue if this is the right path. Why would you do that and why would you encourage others?

You know the Ag industry does more damage to the water table - yet you don't fight that - what are you doing?

Submitted by (Andy Hsia-Coron) on

There are certainly debates about best practices in the agriculture industry. And, some certainly endanger the environment. This initiative was launched because there is a push to add these environmentally threatening and water intensive industrial processes (fracking, acidizing, cyclic steam injection and associated waste water injection) to the industrial activities already occurring in our county. Agriculture creates food and we will also need it. It relies on water, for which life has no substitute. Fracking gets us oil and gas, and these are resources that have substitutes and that the world will need to wean itself from if we are to stabilize our climate and protect our children's futures. We may need to drill for some time as we transition, but most folks think that San Benito County, with our limited water resources and the dependence of our economy on agriculture and tourism, is very bad place for that risky industrial activity to expand.

Submitted by (Tod duBois) on

Andy, Ag requires oil and gas and so does water - California uses 25% of the power supply to move water. We are as dependent on oil and gas as we are on water.. Terminology like "water, for which life has no substitute" is shameful fear mongering.

Please, we need solutions, not fear mongering and spin doctoring.

Of course Ag uses a lot more water than energy recovery, and depending on what they are producing that can vary widely, but a lot of Ag is not food, it also produces energy such as the material for ethanol.  Recreation uses a lot more water than energy and you can't eat recreation.

On average it takes 83 gallons of water to produce one pound of edible apples, but only 15 gallons for a pond of lettuce.  A pound of corn uses 107 gallons of water.  Why do we allow apple farms?

~~"The 2012 World of Corn shows 5 billion bushels of the current supply of corn (more than 27% of all U.S.corn production)  is being used for ethanol, and 1.547 billion bushels of that re-enters the feed market. That includes distillers grains and corn gluten for domestic use and a smaller amount of DDGS for export."  A bushel of corn weighs 56 pounds.

That means by my calculations that  the corn used for ethanol in the U.S. uses about 9.2 million acre-feet of water a year alone, it's a huge number.

~~"In average year California agriculture irrigates 9.6 million acres using roughly 34 million acre-feet of water of the 43 million acre-feet diverted from surface waters or pumped from groundwater."

~~"Summary: All shale gas wells drilled and completed in the United States in 2011 consumed on the order of 135 billion gallons of water, equivalent to about 0.3 percent of total U.S. freshwater consumption."

~~" As another point of comparison, golf courses in the United States consume about 0.5 percent of all freswhater used in the country, according to the Professional Golf Association."

So gas fracking nationwide uses a lot less water than golf courses and that would certainly be the case here in SBC.  The biggest user is Ag - no contest, the largest impact on the water table Ag - no contest.

~~"Luckily, a 2010 paper by Erik Mielke, Laura Diaz Anadon, and Vankatesh Narayanamurti of Harvard’s Belfer Center has data on exactly that question (no need for back of the envelope here!). Here’s what they had to say:

Water Consumption For Extraction and Processing by FuelThe recent shale gas transformation of the U.S. natural gas industry has also focused attention on the water-energy nexus, although the water consumption for the production of shale gas appears to be lower (0.6 to 1.8 gal/MMBtu) than that for other fossil fuels (1 to 8 gal/MMBtu for coal mining and washing, and 1 to 62 gal/MMBtu for U.S. onshore oil production). The increased role of shale gas in the U.S. energy sector could result in reduced water consumption (Chart ES-1). The water used for releasing the gas (hydraulic fracturing), however, has to be carefully managed at a local level. Concerns about potential contamination of freshwater supplies with hydrofracking fluids also need to be addressed. Natural gas-fired combined cycle power plants (CCGT) also have some of the lowest consumption of water per unit of electricity generated, helped by the relatively high thermal efficiency of CCGT plants (Chart ES-2).

A couple points here: not only does shale gas extraction consume less water per unit of energy provided as coal or oil, combined cycle gas-fired power plants currently offer the most efficient way to turn fossil fuels into electricity. A pulverized coal-fired power plant will consume about 30-50 percent more fuel than an efficient combined cycle gas plant to produce an equal amount of electricity.

As a result, if shale gas displaces coal in the electric power sector, as has been occurring in recent years, then total water consumption per unit of electricity provided will actually decrease – by a lot. Assuming values from the middle of the ranges reported by the Belfer Center paper, and assuming a coal plant consumes 30 percent more fuel than a combined cycle gas plant, water use per kWh could fall by on the order of 80 percent."

As Sgt Friday once said, just the facts M'am, just the facts.

The truth is there has to be another reason SBR is after the oil industry, because the water argument does not hold water itself.  See San Juan Bautista for reference.

Marty Richman





The truth is that banning a safe, legal, environmentally sound and revenue producing enterprise is a deprivation of property rights. There is no sound, fact-based causal link between petroleum production and potable water supply contamination in California or, according to the American Water Works Association, the United States. Conversely, there is a causal link between agricultural industry production and potable water supply contamination; why the double standard?

San Benito Rising does not address the possibility of treating and recycling produced water from petroleum production. Rather, SBR spreads fear-mongering misinformation about 'fracking'; an activity that does not exist in San Benito County today. 

Senate Bill 4 addresses all the environmental and seismic concerns related to the hydraulic fracturing process with ongoing studies/due diligence commissioned in order to inform the State of California regulatory agencies responsible for its implementation: (See

Educating the public about this complex issue will be a challenge, but a series of public debates addressing the facts of this initiative will benefit the community.

Add new comment

Add Facebook comment

Comment using your Facebook account. Facebook comments will be published on this page, and on Facebook. It will not be posted to the "Recent Comments" list on the BenitoLink front page.