Santa Barbara County voters could have a say in the future of fracking and other controversial oil extraction methods in the county.
A grassroots coalition calling itself "Santa Barbara County Water Guardians" has begun a petition drive to collect signatures for a November ballot initiative that would essentially ban future onshore fracking, cyclic steaming and other high-intensity petroleum operations in the unincorporated areas of the county.
The ballot initiative includes provisions to protect vested rights and consitutionally protected property rights.
"We are a rapidly growing coalition of business owners, farmers, other professionals, teachers, retirees, parents, students who are all working to protect the agricultural heritage of our county and the ag industry", says SB County Water Guardian Janet Blevins", "we would also like to promote clean energy, we have a great potential in this county for wind and solar energy and we simply cannot afford the risks that are posed by the current oil extraction, oil production practices that threaten clean water and clean air."
Blevins says the campaign needs to collect between 12-13,000 signatures of registered voters in Santa Barbara County by early May in order for the initiative to qualify for the November ballot.
"Fracking and other high intensity oil practices that are practiced in Santa Barbara County, cyclic steam extraction, are a threat to our clean water and our clean air and to our health because those things affect the health of all of us, especially children and seniors", Blevins says, "we know that water pollution is a danger, we are in a terrible drought, we know that we already don’t meet some of the clean air standards on certain days so we are working to protect our water."
Here's an excerpt from the press release issued by Santa Barbara County Water Guardians with regard to their ballot initiative campaign:
"As oil companies plan to expand the use of high-intensity petroleum operations to extract oil and gas from the Monterey shale and other formations across Santa Barbara County, public concerns grow. chemicals involved in many of these operations are associated with serious health problems such as cancer and birth defects. The increased emission of air pollutants has been tied to a greater risk of asthma attacks and reduced agricultural yields. at the same time, the threatened proliferation of new wells threatens the county's famed scenic vistas, robust tourism industry and quality of life. Expanding high-intensity petroleum operations will also compete with agricultural and public uses for Santa Barbara County's limited water supplies. With reports of groundwater contamination in four states related to these operations, Santa Barbara's local farms and wineries could be devastated if a well casing fails or wastewater is mismanaged. activities associated with these advanced drilling practices have also been linked to increased seismic activity, which is concerning for a county that sits on a number of active fault lines."
Tupper Hull, spokesperson for the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), issued the following statement with regard to the Santa Barbara County Water Guardians ballot iniative and petition drive:
"A number of national organizations with a radical anti-oil agenda have launched anti-hydraulic fracturing petition drives in local communities around California. these efforts have been based on wildly inaccurate and inflammatory misinformation about the technology used to produce petroleum energy for Californians", Hull says in the the statement, "hydraulic fracturing is a safe and well-understood technology that has been used in California for more than 60 years and has never been linked to any environmental harm – including harm to water supplies, air quality or earthquakes."
"Statements to the contrary are simply false and ignore the overwhelming body of science that supports the safety of this technology. Additionally, the California Legislature just last year passed Senate Bill 4, the most stringent and comprehensive regulations in the United States. Those regulations provide extraordinary protections for water supplies, air quality, neighboring property owners; require full disclosure of all chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing; and require a thorough, science-based review of the safety of hydraulic fracturing."