Notching another victory for the growing national anti-fracking movement, voters in Butte County, California on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed a measure that bans the controversial oil and gas drilling process in their communities.
Measure E won with 71 percent of the vote, making Butte the fourth California county to pass such a measure, following Mendocino, San Benito, and Santa Cruz counties, and adding to the growing list of states and municipalities across the nation that have come out against fracking.
Agriculture is the top industry in Butte County, which sits just north of Sacramento. Proponents of the measure argued that threatening the aquifers with toxic fracking chemicals would destroy the "lifeblood" of the local economy.
"We are thrilled that Butte County voters decided to protect our clean water and almond and walnut farms from fracking," said Dave Garcia, of Frack-Free Butte County. "We’re proud that we can hand down a community that’s green and pristine to our children and grandchildren."
Despite the fact that a majority of Californians oppose the practice, Democratic Governor Jerry Brown has embraced fracking in the state. What's more, two federal agencies late last month quietly lifted the ban on offshore fracking in the waters off the California coast.
"When our Governor and local elected officials fail to act, voters are taking the initiative at the ballot box to protect their health and their water from fracking," said Ella Teevan, Northern California organizer with Food & Water Watch. "The victory in Butte County will inspire other counties and cities to follow suit."
Indeed, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors are expected to rule on a similar measure this summer while residents of Monterey County will be voting on a ban in November.
The oil industry has vowed a vigorous fight in Monterey, which sits atop the yet un-fracked, petroleum-rich Monterey Shale.
Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders endorsed that measure while campaigning in California's Salinas Valley last week, telling supporters in Spreckels: "There is a growing movement against fracking that is beginning to spread all across our country."