California’s Butte County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to consider a fracking moratorium in the county. If the law is implemented, it would be the country’s first county to ban fracking.
Anti-fracking activists and farmers celebrated a victory Tuesday night, when the Butte County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 to consider implementing a law banning fracking in the county.
Butte County is located in the Central Valley of California, north of the state capital of Sacramento. There are about 26 active gas wells and 200 abandoned wells in the county, which hasn’t received a new permit for well drilling in about 25 years.
Since fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, has reportedly not occurred in Butte County yet, the move to ban the practice was seen as pre-emptive. If the ban is eventually enacted, Butte County is set to become the first county in not just the state of California, but in all of the United States, to ban fracking.
Several other cities in California including Los Angeles have passed similar laws, as have some cities in Vermont. While no counties have been able to pass a moratorium on fracking yet, several counties in California are currently discussing implementing similar bans.
Tia Lebherz, an organizer in Northern California for Food & Water Watch, said Butte County’s move is a “huge step forward.”
Dave Garcia, of Frack-Free Butte County, applauded the Butte County Board of Supervisors’ decision to draft a county ordinance banning fracking, since he and other activists had only asked the board to amend the county’s zoning code to ensure that there was local oversight of all fracking projects.
After an hour of testimony from Butte County residents, District 4 Supervisor Steve Lambert introduced a motion to ban fracking in its entirety, saying “In all honesty, I’d favor a ban.”
The only board member who disagreed with Lambert and voted against the ban was Butte County Supervisor Larry Wahl, who called the ban a “knee jerk reaction,” and said fracking has been “done safely in many parts of the country.”
Loretta Torres, a resident of a nearby county, agreed that fracking isn’t all that bad. She traveled to Butte County for Tuesday night’s meeting to share that in the seven years since an energy company drilled a well on her land and began fracking, she hasn’t encountered any issues.
“I have not had any problems with that and the water has been just fine,” Torres said. “I think that’s one of the reasons I came is because I knew there’s fear out there in the county and there would be a lot of people who would like to do an all-out ban. I think that’s unrealistic and using fear as the dominating factor here.”
Many anti-fracking activists, though, say their message is based not on over-exaggerated fears, but on scientific evidence that fracking operations impact the environment, pollute and reduce the water supply, and increase risks of earthquakes.
“[Fracking is bad] for the county, for the people, and especially for our water because you know, water is butte county’s number one resource,” Garcia said.
Activists also point out that the big oil and energy companies spend a lot of money trying to convince the public that fracking isn’t that harmful, which is why Lebherz says the work for her and other anti-fracking activists is far from over.
“Over the past year, Frack-Free Butte County has built a robust campaign in the region in opposition of fracking with a goal of bringing it to the 2014 ballot,” she told MintPress. “While the Board of Supervisors moves forward with their process, Frack-Free Butte County will continue to gather signatures for their ballot campaign to ensure that the strongest possible law is enacted.”
In order for the ban to be implemented, Butte County staff need to draft a county ordinance and then bring it to a vote before the Board of Supervisors. A vote is expected sometime this summer.