Quantcast
Energy

Fracking Ban Ballot Initiatives Intensify

County ballot issues to ban fracking could have a large impact outside those counties. And the campaign money being spent on both sides—but primarily by big energy companies—shows how much is at stake.

The oilfields of Kern County, California, are already seeing a fracking boom. Nearby San Benito and Santa Barbara counties will vote on fracking bans in November.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

The highest profile and most contentious ban is the one on the ballot in Denton, Texas, north of Dallas, located in the heart of the Barnett shale region. Citizen groups, concerned about their families' health and safety and frustrated by the city's failure to enact any restrictions on fracking, gathered enough signatures to force city council to vote on the ban in July. After the council voted against it, the issue went to the November ballot. The battle has positioned the industry-backed group Denton Taxpayers for a Strong Economy against the community group Denton Drilling Awareness Group/Frack Free Denton. The Denton Chamber of Commerce and the Denton County Republican Party have come out against the ban.

This ballot initiative has gotten extensive media coverage in the region because of its implications for Texas' burgeoning fracking sector, and industry fears that such bans could spread in this oil- and gas-rich region. Opponents of the ban have suggested that if it is passed, oil and gas interests will sue the city for an unconstitutional taking of property rights. State representative Phil King has said he will introduce a bill in the next session of the Texas legislature to prohibit  local governments from banning fracking.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported this weekend that Denton Taxpayers for a Strong Economy has collected $75,000 apiece from energy companies Devon Energy, XTO and Enervest Operating, making up the bulk of the $231,000 the group has raised. Only eight other donors are listed. It said the pro-ban group has raised about $50,000, with $30,000 coming from environmental group Earthworks, which an anti-ban spokesperson called an "extreme liberal fringe group out of Washington, D.C." Earthworks told the Dallas News that 90 percent of the funds, generated by an online fundraiser, were contributed by Denton residents. Denton has a population of about 113,000.

Andrew Wheat, research director of Texans for Public Justice, a nonpartisan nonprofit that tracks the impact of money and corporate power in Texas politics, told the Dallas News, “The influence of the industry is pervasive. To the extent that there is any effort to regulate these activities, it’s coming from the grassroots local government, it’s not coming from Austin.”

In California, three counties have anti-fracking measures on the November ballot. San Benito County, located in the central coastal region with a population of just over 50,000, was the first county to approve such a ballot measure. Santa Barbara and Mendocino counties have followed with their own measures, and Butte County is considering one for 2016. Santa Barbara, with a population of more than 400,000, is the most significant of these. Santa Cruz County's board of supervisors banned fracking there in May.

As in Texas, these initiatives are being looked at by the energy industry and anti-fracking groups as a bellwether. The San Jose Mercury News says that a coalition funded by oil companies like Chevron, ExxonMobil and Occidental Petroleum has given nearly $2 million to the campaign to block the ban in San Benito County and $5 million to the effort in Santa Barbara County. In San Benito, it's outspending pro-ban groups by a 15-1 margin, the paper reports.

Again, the sides are wrangling about the health and safety of residents vs. property rights, as well as protecting the region's natural beauty—San Benito County includes Pinnacles National Park. In addition, ban opponents scoff that since there's no fracking in the county now, the ban is pointless. Ban supporters point out that San Benito sits on part of the state's oil-rich Monterey Shale deposit, which could be developed in the future. Kern County, adjacent to Santa Barbara County and just south of San Benito, is already being heavily fracked. And as in Texas, community groups are acting in the absence of state regulation.

"We need Governor Brown to put an immediate halt to fracking statewide," attorney Kassie Siegel of Center for Biological Diversity told the Mercury News. "But until he does, we are going to see more local governments and local residents going forward with measures to protect themselves."

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

North Texas Town Rejects Fracking Ban

Are Cancer Rates Elevated Near Texas Fracking Sites?

Monterey Shale Report Exposes Myth of Economic Prosperity From Fracking California

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
Renewable Energy
Storage solutions, such as Tesla's Powerwall domestic battery, are "moving from the grid to the garage to the landing at home." Tesla Motors

Battery Storage Revolution Could 'Sound the Death Knell for Fossil Fuels'

If we want to accelerate the world's renewable energy transition, we'll have to modernize the electric grid and we'll need much better batteries. Just look at Germany, which generates so much clean energy on particularly windy and sunny days that electricity prices are often negative.

Sure this is good news for a German person's wallet, but as the New York Times noted, "Germany's power grid, like most others around the world, has not yet adapted to the increasing amounts of renewable energy being produced."

Keep reading... Show less

The Future of Food: 8 Business Leaders Investing to End Slaughterhouses

From Silicon Valley tech moguls to business executives and entrepreneurs, these people know that the future of food means not slaughtering animals.

Keep reading... Show less

Oil Spill Spreading in East China Sea 'Now the Size of Paris'

By Andy Rowell

There are increasing environmental and health concerns surrounding the oil spill in the East China Sea from the Iranian registered tanker, the Sanchi, which sank on Monday carrying 136,000 tons, or one million barrels, of a highly flammable oil mix called condensate.

The tanker had burned for a week before exploding after colliding with another ship on Jan. 6, with all 32 crew now presumed dead or missing.

Keep reading... Show less

‘Tide Pod Challenge’ Highlights Danger of Colorful Laundry Packets

By Samara Geller

An unbelievably dumb and extremely dangerous dare has gone viral on social media. It's the "Tide Pod Challenge": biting down on the small, colorful—and potentially poisonous—packets of liquid laundry detergent until they burst in your mouth. Children, teens and young adults are posting videos of themselves taking the challenge—with the gagging, spitting and coughing that follows.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
Arizona lost out on $27 million of revenue during the 2013 government shutdown, with the Grand Canyon alone amounting for $17 million of it. Anna Irene / Flickr

National Parks, Monuments May Remain Open But Unstaffed if Government Shuts Down

You might want to reconsider your plans if you intend to visit a national park this weekend. While the park might be open, there probably won't be any rangers on site, which could pose a serious risk to safety.

The Trump administration is reportedly planning to keep many national parks and monuments open if the government shuts down on Friday, the Washington Post reported. The move is meant to avoid the public outrage sparked by the closure of parks and memorials during the 2013 shutdown.

Keep reading... Show less
Adventure

Divers Discover World’s Largest Flooded Cave

Diving enthusiasts, could this be your next great adventure?

Archaeologists and divers with Gran Acuífero Maya (GAM)—a project dedicated to the study and preservation of the Yucatan peninsula—claim to have discovered the world's longest underwater cave just outside of Tulum, Mexico.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Pexels

3 Reasons to Be Hopeful About Our P​lanet in 2018

By Elizabeth Sturcken

Feeling down about our planet in 2018? Don't!

There are many reasons to be hopeful around environmental action in the new year—and if the following developments don't make you feel better, I've prescribed some action steps at the end that are guaranteed to set you on a healthier, happier path.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!