San Benito County becomes the first county in California to put a measure on a ballot to ban fracking. County supervisors gave the ballot issue the green light on Tuesday after a local group got 4,000 signatures needed for a petition to make the ballot.
The organization called San Benito Rising that got the signatures for the ballot measure met Wednesday night to discuss their next step, because even though the attempt to ban fracking is now headed to the ballot, their work has just begun.
The supervisors had three options: accept the initiative at a later date; send an initiative to the voters; or call for a fiscal report to be done. The county supervisors ended up leaving the decision to the voters. It will go on the ballot in November. Supervisor Jerry Muenzer says he had recently worked on an ordinance that increases the level of protection and provisions for air, water, and wildlife from fracking, but if voters aren't satisfied with that he says they have every right to put it to a vote.
“The big pro is obviously the voters will get to decide what they want to see in their county. Two cons I'm worried about is this has the potential to eliminate all oil activity which is going on in the southern most part in the county and it has the potential to put the county in a situation where we will have to defend ourselves in a lawsuit,” said Muenzer.
San Benito Rising is already looking into the validity of some lawsuits that are coming the county’s way. One of the most recent lawsuit threats is some the Independent Petroleum Association.
“If the people of our county have the gumption to exercise their rights they are telling the county they will sue them, but we have very good attorneys. They have gone through the memo and they say there is nothing in it that stands up,” said San Benito Rising member Andy Hsia-Coran.
Supervisor Jerry Muenzer says the reality is it could cost millions for the county to defend itself if it is taken to court.
San Benito Rising says that there's even more work for them to do now. It's up to them to inform the public and get people to go to the ballots and vote.