Election 2014: Fracking Bans on the Ballot

Voters in communities in California, Texas and Ohio have a chance to ban fracking when they fill out their November 4 ballots. 

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves the injection of water and a mix of chemicals to extract oil or gas from shale formations. It has been linked to increased seismic activity, pollution, and further greenhouse gas emissions that driving global warming and climate change. 

In California, there are county-wide measures in San Benito, Santa Barbara and Mendocino to enact a fracking ban; in Texas the city of Denton will vote on a ban; and in Ohio the cities of Youngstown, Athens and Kent, and the village of Gates Mills have the chance to enact such a ban.

Additional Common Dreams coverage of fracking can be found here.


SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: Measure P

The Basics

Measure P would ban future "high-intensity petroleum operations," which includes fracking, as well as acidizing and steam-injection methods.  The proposal was brought forth by the Santa Barbara County Water Guardians.

Ballot Question:

Shall the ordinance amending Santa Barbara County's Comprehensive Plan and County Code—to prohibit on all lands within the unincorporated County, with certain exemptions, the construction or use of any facility, appurtenance, or above ground equipment supporting certain petroleum operations, including but not limited to: hydraulic fracturing; acid well stimulation; or aiding hydrocarbon flow into a well by injecting water, natural gas, steam, air, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, chemicals or other substances—be adopted?

Yes on P:

  • Proponents say these "high-intensity" operations pollute scarce water resources, putting public health, wildlife, and agriculture at risk. 

No on P:

  • Opponents of Measure P say it would be a job killer by effectively shutting down oil and gas industry in the county and would take away revenue for government services like schools.  As of October 6, energy companies including Chevron have spent over $7.6 million to defeat the measure.

SAN BENITO COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: Measure J

The Basics

Like the measure on the Santa Barbara ballot, San Benito County's Measure J would ban high-intensity operations including fracking, acidizing and steam injection.

Ballot Question:

Shall San Benito County's General Plan be amended to ban High-Intensity Petroleum Operations (such as hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, acid well stimulation, and cyclic steam injection, but not Low-Intensity Petroleum Operations) throughout all unincorporated areas, and all Petroleum Operations in residential general plan designations of Rural, Rural Transitional, Rural Residential, Rural/Urban, and Sphere of Influence Rural/Urban, with related zoning changes to implement the new General Plan policies?

Yes on J:

  • Proponents of the ban say these extraction methods "endanger our water, health, jobs, and way of life."

No on J:

  • Opponents of the measure say fracking isn't used in the county and that the measure is a plot by "environmental extremists" to work towards bringing an end all oil production in the state.

MENDOCINO COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: Measure S

The Basics

Mendocino County's Measure S would ban all fracking-related activities by enacting a community bill of rights to secure community members' rights to safe and healthy environment.  The measure also includes enforcement penalties.

Ballot Question:

Shall the ordinance, which is titled An Initiative to Assert the Right of Residents of Mendocino County in Order to Secure Clean Water, Air and Soil and Freedom From Chemical Trespass, Which Would Ban Hydraulic Fracturing, Directional and Horizontal Drilling, and Waste Injection Wells in the County of Mendocino and Invalidates Any and All Laws Contrary to this Purpose to the Extent They Effect the County of Mendocino, be adopted?

Yes on S:

  • The effort was brought forth by the Community Rights Network of Mendocino County, which states: "We believe we have the right to decide what happens to our natural environment and ecosystems and not some distant corporation."

No on S:

  • There does not appear to be an organized committee fighting the measure.

DENTON, TEXAS: Fracking Ban Initiative

The Basics:

The ordinance would ban fracking, but not other oil and gas extraction, within the city limits.  A temporary ban on fracking was in place until September, but the ordinance supporters want that ban to be permanent.  If enacted, Denton, located on top of the Barnett Shale formation, would become the first city in Texas to have such a ban.

Ballot Question:

 Shall an ordinance be enacted prohibiting, within the corporate limits of the City of Denton, Texas , hydraulic fracturing, a well stimulation process involving the use of water,sand and/or chemical additives pumped under high pressure to fracture subsurface non-porous rock formations such as shale to improve the flow of natural gas, oil, or other hydrocarbons into the well, with subsequent high rate, extended flowback to expel fracture fluids and solids?

Yes on the Ordinance:

  • The effort was brought forth by Denton Drilling Awareness Group (Denton DAG).  Frack Free Denton states: "Simply put, without the ban fracking will continue unchecked all across Denton less than 200 feet from homes, schools, and playgrounds. The negative health and safety impacts of living close to fracking are well established. Fracking requires heavy truck traffic, poses risks of industrial-scale accidents (like the blowout in Denton last year), uses non-disclosed proprietary chemicals, and has permanently contaminated over 1 billion gallons of Denton’s fresh water."

No on the Ordinance:

  • Denton Taxpayers for a Strong Economy states that voting for the ban hurts the city's economy, weakens national security, and "condones abusive government taking of private property." The group urges voters to "support responsible drilling."

ATHENS, OHIO*: Issue 7

The Basics

Issue 7 would ban fracking and fracking-related activities within the city by establishing a community bill of rights "elevating the rights and governance of the people of Athens over those privileges bestowed on certain extraction corporations."

Ballot Question:

Shall the proposed ordinance titled Athens Community Bill of Rights and Water Supply Protection Ordinance to secure certain rights for the people and environment of Athens and to protect those rights by prohibiting within the City of Athens certain corporate activities related to shale gas extraction be adopted?

Yes on 7:

  • The effort was brought forth by the Athens Bill of Rights Committee, which stated in a press release earlier this year:  "The case for Home Rule is becoming stronger every day as citizens begin waking up to the fact that our local government is powerless to protect us from the scourge of injection wells distributing their cancer-causing chemicals and radioactive wastes into our environment."

 No on 7:

  • BallotPedia states that the Ohio Oil and Gas Association opposes Issue 7.

YOUNGSTOWN, OHIO: Issue 4

The Basics

Youngstown's Issue 4 would enact a Community Bill of Rights prohibiting unconventional oil and gas extraction methods including fracking.

Ballot Question:

". . . All City residents possess the right to a sustainable energy future.  That right shall include the right to be free from any oil and gas extraction that would violate the right of residents to pure water, clean air, the peaceful enjoyment of their home, or their right to be free from toxic chemical trespass; or that would violate the right of natural communities and ecosystems to exist and flourish. . . it shall be unlawful for any government or corporation to engage in the extraction of oil and gas within the City of Youngstown. The term “to engage in the extraction of oil and gas” shall include the use of unconventional high volume, high pressure, horizontal and directional drilling technology, commonly known as “hydro-fracturing,” and related activities. It shall also include the depositing, disposal, storage, and transportation of water or chemicals to be used in the extraction of oil and gas, and the disposal or processing of waste products from the extraction of oil and gas..."

To view the full Bill of Rights, click here (pdf).

Yes on Issue 4:

  • Susie Beiersdorfer, a member of the bill of rights committee, told the Youngstown Vindicator that local and state governments are "putting corporations before the health, safety and property rights of citizens."  The Protect Youngstown website states that the measure is needed to protect environmental and public health and safety.

No on Issue 4:

  • The Mahoning County Democratic Party is urging voters to vote no on the Bill of Rights.

GATES MILLS, OHIO: Issue 51

The Basics

Issue 51 would ban fracking within the village by enacting a Community Bill of Rights in the Village of Gates Mills.

Ballot Question:

It shall be unlawful within Gates Mills for any corporation or government to engage in the extraction of hydrocarbons. . . 'Engage in the extraction of hydrocarbons' shall include, but not be limited to, the extraction of hydrocarbons by hydraulic fracturing, vertical, directional or horizontal drilling, and associated activities; the siting or use of infrastructure or transportation supporting the extraction of hydrocarbons - including but not limited to processing facilities, pipelines, compressor stations, storage facilities, recycling and disposal facilities.

See the full Charter Amendment here.

Yes on Issue 51:

  • The issue was brought forth by Citizens for the Preservation of Gates Mills, who felt that the mayor's plan of creating a land trust among property owners through which they could decide on drilling operations and split royalties invited fracking.  "The road we are taking speaks more to our constitutional rights,"  group member Bob Andreano toldCleveland.com.  "Until something is upheld or struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, we don't want to give up or throw in the towel.

No on Issue 51:

  • Neighbors for Responsible Government has spoken out against the measure. James F. Lang, a lawyer and a speaker at an event organized by the group, called the measure a "secede-from-the-union approach."

KENT, OHIO: Issue 21

The Basics:

Issue 21 asks Kent voters to pass a Community Bill of Rights that would ban fracking.

Ballot Question:

. . . It shall be unlawful within the City of Kent for any corporation or government to engage in the extraction of hydrocarbons. . . 'Extraction of hydrocarbons' shall include, but not be limited to, all extraction of oil and gas by hydraulic fracturing, vertical, directional or horizontal drilling, and associated activities...

See the full measure here (pdf).

Yes on 21:

  • Kent Environmental Rights Group gathered the necessary signatures to put the Bill of Rights on the ballot. The groups states on its website:  "We are following in the path of Pittsburgh, Broadview Heights, Mansfield, Yellow Springs, and Oberlin—other cities that have passed effective, proven legislation that have used constitutional law to defend their communities against corporate intrusions that are so obnoxious and toxic that they would degrade our basic rights to clean air, clean water, and peaceful enjoyment of our homes. Fracking and injection wells are examples of those activities that have harmed other communities. By prohibiting the extraction of hydrocarbons within the city limits, Kent can say 'NO' to such activities whereas we currently have no such protection and all the power resides in the hands of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. That's not right. Kent Citizens should have the ultimate say about whether or not we want dangerous, toxic, noisy operations like fracking and injection wells within our city limits."

No on 21:

  • Citizens for Good Legislation is against issue 21, stating that it would not impact fracking, as that is regulated by the state, but that it would kill jobs, hurt progress, and lead to lawsuits.

*All the measures in Ohio were drafted by the non-profit law firm Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund.