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 www.sanbenitorising.org