SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - A milestone for those seeking to ban "high intensity" oil and gas extraction, like fracking, in Santa Barbara County.
Organizers of a countywide petition drive to let voters decide on a ban say they have enough signatures to put the measure on the November 2014 ballot.
The energy industry says "high intensity" extraction has proven safe track record and any ban would kill an unknown number of good paying jobs.
Petition campaign organizers, "Santa Barbara County Water Guardians", say in about three weeks time hundreds of volunteers countywide collected more than 20,000 signatures of registered voters opposed to any future fracking or other "high-intensity oil and gas extraction including steam injection in the unincorporated areas of the county going forward.
"A vast majority of people who know about fracking were very passionately supportive of this measure", says petition campaign organizer Rebecca Claassen.
Energy industry advocates say any ban on oil and gas production in Santa Barbara County would be a "job killer" and deprive county government of badly needed tax revenue.
"Oil and gas currently only employs about .02 percent of our workforce here in Santa Barbara County right now", Claassen says, "so even if the industry doubled their output, that's still only .04 percent of the jobs versus a vast majority of employment in agriculture, tourism and high-tech."
"Even our local and state building trade councils are not opposed to our initiative because they find that these industries often bring people in from out of the county", Claassen says.
Critics of the ban also maintain there's an established track record of safety and environmental protection with high intensity oil and gas production.
Water guardans says about 25 percent of the 20,000-plus signatures it says it collected came from northern Santa Barbara County.
"It seems like there is still a lot of education to be done", Claassen says about the proposed ban initiative, "I would say half of the people that I encountered knew enough about fracking to know that they didn't want it to happen in Santa Barbara County."
Santa Barbara County Water Guardians says it plans to submit its signatures for verification at the Santa Barbara County Elections Office Thursday afternoon.