SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - Santa Barbara County voters are one step closer to deciding the fate of a grassroots initiative to ban so-called "high intensity" oil and gas production, known as fracking, in the county.
County Supervisors listened to passionate public comment in favor and against the proposed ban late Tuesday afternoon.
The Santa Barbara County Water Guardians group collected more than 19,000 signatures from registered voters for an initiative that would ban the practice of injecting steam, water or acid into wells to release oil deposits.
The County Registrar of Voters certified more than 16,000 of the signatures.
Supervisors voted 5-0 on Tuesday to send the issue to attorneys for a legal analysis.
They can vote to adopt the ban or to let voters decide in November.
The board has scheduled a final public hearing on the measure on Friday the 13th to hear the results of that analysis and to give the public another chance to comment.
The hearing is scheduled at 9:00 a.m. in the County Supervisors Hearing Room at the Betteravia Government Center in Santa Maria.
County residents contacted at random have mixed views on the controversial issue of fracking.
"Steam, we used to do steam when I used to work in the 1970's", said one man in Santa Maria, "you gotta figure the steam got the oil out and it left the rest of it, now that wasn't so intrusive," he said.
"I really don't think that's a good thing", added another man. "If you look at Florida where they are doing stuff in Florida and with the sink holes and stuff, that could be a possibility."
"If its proven to not mess up the environment then sure, but if its going to mess it up then we should pursue other means of energy," said another man in Santa Maria.
Santa Barbara County Water Guardians needed at least 13,000 signatures from registered voters in the county to qualify the item for the November ballot.
Industry supporters say fracking, steam injection and other production methods will create hundreds of good paying jobs and generate millions of dollars in tax revenue for the entire county.
Property owners told County Supervisors they will sue for any loss of their mineral rights on their land.
County staff will study impacts any ban on future high-intensity oil and gas production will have in the county. The results of that study will be shared on Friday the 13th of June.
Several other California counties are reviewing similar bans and ballot measures.