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Fracking ban supporters Margaret Moreales-Rebecchi with her husband Larry Rebecchi outside the Measure J office in Hollister, California.  (Photo: Sarah Craig/Faces of Fracking/via flickr/cc)

'Just the Beginning': Communities Across Nation Ban Fracking

In Ohio, California and Texas, voters took to ballots to say no to fracking, yes to communities' health

Andrea Germanos

Opponents of fracking scored a handful of victories Tuesday, with voters choosing bans on the extraction process in communities in Texas, Ohio and California.

One of these wins was in the birthplace of fracking—Denton, Texas.

The ordinance prohibiting fracking within the city limits passed 58.64% to 41.36%, making Denton the first city in the state to enact such a ban.

Bruce Baizel, Energy Program Director of the environmental organization Earthworks, said the vote for the ban in Denton was a victory not only for the city but for communities nationwide.

"Denton, Texas, is where hydraulic fracturing was invented. It’s home to more than 275 fracked wells. It’s a place that knows fracking perhaps better than any other. If this place in the heart of the oil and gas industry can’t live with fracking, then who can?" Baizel said in a press statement.

"The answer, at present, is ‘no one.’ That’s why fracking bans and moratoria are spreading like wildfire across the country," he stated.

While welcoming what she said was a victory for families and public health, Cathy McMullen, President of Frack Free Denton, warned that legal challenges were likely on the way. "Oil and gas industry is going to try to use our own state government against us by directing its paid flunkies to overturn the ban in the legislature," McMullen stated.

But the "ban is the voice of the citizens of Denton speaking directly to the fracking industry, and local, state and national government: We have had enough." Pursuing a lawsuit would show that industry and government is "on the side of corporate interests and against the people."

Athens, Ohio, one of four municipalities in the state where voters faced fracking bans, also saw a victory for opponents of the practice.

The ban, which comes via a Community Bill of Rights, passed overwhelmingly—78.28% to 21.72%.

Jeff Risner of the Athens Community Bill of Rights Committee, which put the measure on the ballot, told the Athens Messenger that the city's ban, and its wide support, could catalyze other municipalities in the state to push forth with their own bans.

Voters dealt a blow to the fracking industry in California as well, where two counties voted for bans.

In San Benito County, Measure J got the support of almost 57% of voters—despite millions the energy industry spent to defeat it—and marks a victory environmental groups hope can be repeated in other municipalities in the state.

As in Athens, the ban in Mendocino County—which passed 67.18% to 32.82%—comes through a community bill of rights. San Francisco-based Global Exchange, which helped bring forth the measures, called it a historic and huge win.

Global Exchange’s Shannon Biggs, who organized the ballot effort stated: "With the passage of Measure S, residents in Mendocino County made history as the first California community to adopt a Community Bill of Rights, placing their rights above corporate interests. Residents see enactment of this ordinance as the first step in asserting their right to local self-government, and a rejection of the idea that their community will be a sacrifice zone for corporate profits."

"This is just a beginning for the community rights movement in California," Biggs stated.

Other fracking opponents say these Election Day victories show the start of a nationwide movement. 

"The public tide is turning against fracking, not just in California but around the country," stated Hollin Kretzmann of the Center for Biological Diversity. "As voters from San Benito to Denton, Texas, showed, if regulators won’t protect them from fracking pollution, local communities can and will use the ballot box to protect themselves."


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