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Two-and-a-half years ago, San Benito County got a wakeup call that the enhanced petroleum extraction juggernaut that has swept large areas of the U.S. can happen anywhere, even here. Mysterious giant thumper trucks showed up in our neighborhood on the western edge of San Benito County, and it soon was revealed that they were prospecting for oil. Neighbors were concerned, and a grassroots effort was launched, “Aromas Cares for the Environment” or ACE.

We educated ourselves about petroleum extraction, and learned that there are new technologies such as fracking being widely used in other states. We also discovered that San Benito County’s regulation of oil drilling was almost non-existent. ACE set out to do something about that. We worked with the Board of Supervisors for almost a year, culminating in the passage of a new county ordinance that brought some scrutiny to the process of obtaining an oil drilling permit here. The ordinance doesn’t have all of the protections that we wanted, but it was the best compromise that could be approved at the time.

Now ACE is ready to endorse Measure J, because we think that more protections are needed.

Over the years since, those thumper trucks ignited interest in this issue, the landscape has continued to evolve. Increasingly people in communities across the country report that enhanced oil and gas extraction has polluted their air and water, industrialized their landscapes, and caused the destruction of their communities – crushing their dreams of riches. The most gripping tragedies are the families who own their land, but not the mineral rights, and have their property invaded by an overwhelming industrial process, shattering their lives. In parts of New York, Pennsylvania, New Mexico and Colorado, grassroots organizations have passed ballot measures to ban high intensity petroleum technologies, because they’ve seen firsthand what it can do to their communities.

As residents of San Benito County become more educated about issues with oil extraction, the political climate changed and other citizens groups formed. The Coalition to Protect San Benito County initiated Measure J because regulation of fracking and other high intensity petroleum technologies provides inadequate protection in San Benito County. The need for further protection was reinforced when the county approved the Indian oil field in Bitterwater without a thorough environmental review, and the approval was later overturned in court. Hard working local citizens are asking you to vote to prohibit fracking and high intensity oil extraction in our county by voting YES on Measure J. ACE thinks that’s the right choice.

– Seth Capron, ACE Steering Committee