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California County Bans Fracking, Despite Deluge of Oil Industry Cash

San Benito Victory Puts Pressure on Gov. Brown to Halt Fracking Statewide

HOLLISTER, Calif. - Voters in San Benito County approved a ballot measure Tuesday that will ban fracking and other extreme oil-extraction techniques, despite a massive ad campaign funded by the oil industry. Fracking is a controversial technique, used in thousands of California oil and gas wells, that blasts huge volumes of water mixed with toxic chemicals into the earth to fracture rocks. Anti-fracking measures also passed in Denton, Texas, and Athens, Ohio.

“The oil industry’s millions were no match for San Benito County voters determined to protect their air and water from fracking pollution,” said Hollin Kretzmann of the Center for Biological Diversity. “But every California community deserves the same protection, so Gov. Brown needs to act now to halt fracking’s toxic threat to our health and environment.”  

A similar ballot measure appears to have fallen short in Santa Barbara after oil companies spent millions on misleading ads. In both counties, citizen activists concerned about fracking pollution encountered a deluge of oil industry cash that turned these local proposals into some of the most expensive ballot measures in the country. A third measure to ban fracking in Mendocino County did pass.

Fueled by enormous donations from the likes of Exxon Mobil, one of the world’s largest companies, the opposition to the Measure P fracking ban in Santa Barbara raised some $6.4 million — 21 times more than proponents of a fracking ban. In San Benito, oil industry-backed forces outspent fracking ban proponents 13-1.


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Despite enormous spending on public relations by the oil industry, Californians have voiced growing concerns about fracking. A recent Public Policy Institute poll found that 54 percent of Californians oppose expanded fracking. Another recent poll commissioned by environmental organizations found that two-thirds of state residents want a moratorium on fracking.

The public’s concern about fracking is fed by recent revelations linking the oil industry to air and water pollution. Almost 3 billion gallons of oil industry wastewater have been illegally dumped into California aquifers that are clean enough to supply drinking and irrigation water, according to recently released state Water Board documents.

Data collected by the South Coast Air Quality Management District show that oil companies have used millions of pounds of air toxic chemicals in the Los Angeles area over the past year. A new multistate study published in Environmental Health found dangerously high levels of cancer-causing chemicals in the air around fracked wells.

“The public tide is turning against fracking, not just in California but around the country,” Kretzmann said. “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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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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