Santa Cruz becomes first California county to ban fracking by Rory Carroll, May 20, 2014, Reuters
Santa Cruz on Tuesday became the first California county to ban fracking, the latest in a string of moves by local governments in the state to take a stand against the controversial oil and gas producing method.
The scenic county of Santa Cruz does not have any oil or gas production, but advocates said momentum for a ban took shape after reports surfaced saying that oil companies were exploring the possibly of fracking in neighboring San Benito county. The ban is also intended to pressure California Governor Jerry Brown into agreeing to put a halt to the practice in the state, a step he refused to take in the last legislative session. Brown has said he supports fracking because he believes it is better for the state to produce its own crude oil than rely on imports.
“While Governor Brown refuses to protect our health and environment from fracking risks, local communities across the state are moving forward with measures to fight oil industry pollution,” said Rose Braz of the Center for Biological Diversity.
An oil industry representative on Tuesday played down the significance of the Santa Cruz vote, calling it “symbolic.”
“Activists are going around the state pursuing total bans on oil and gas development under the guise of wanting to ban fracking, but in places where people earn their livings responsibly producing our oil and gas resources, this strategy won’t work,” said Dave Quast, California director of Energy In Depth, an oil industry-backed group.
Fracking has emerged as a top environmental issue in California. Its Monterey Shale formation contains an estimated 15 billion barrels of hard-to-reach oil, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The action in Santa Cruz follows a vote earlier this month by city leaders in Beverly Hills to ban fracking, making it the first municipality in the state to prohibit the practice.
Los Angeles and Culver City are considering bans on fracking as well. Last month, the city council in Carson, California, declined to extend a temporary moratorium on fracking and other extraction practices. Occidental Petroleum is looking to drill more than 200 new wells in the Southern California city, although it denies it will frack or use acid to stimulate those wells. [Emphasis added]
Santa Cruz County first to ban fracking by Jason Hoppin, May 20, 2014, Santa Cruz Sentinel
Adding another trophy to a case full of environmental firsts, the county of Santa Cruz on Tuesday banned fracking, becoming the only one in California to do so. The unanimous 5-0 vote by the Board of Supervisors came without objection, and places Santa Cruz County at the vanguard of a growing number of cities and counties weighing constraints on the controversial oil development method, even as the state readies stricter new rules governing the industry.
“This is a historic decision and it’ll be looked back on as visionary. And it will hopefully spur other counties to do similar things, and to prevent harm before it happens,” said Joy Hinz, a Scotts Valley resident.
The county ban covers all oil development, and Supervisor John Leopold, the architect of the law, cited the environmental and health risks. While fracked wells use water located far below drinking water aquifers, among Leopold’s concerns is that wells could be breached and contaminate scarce local supplies. “Since we’ve been considering this, I’ve heard from colleagues from around the state wanting to know what we were doing, trying to figure out the strategy, concerned about the prevalence of this practice here in California. It’s important for Santa Cruz to take a stand,” Leopold said.
Butte, Santa Barbara and San Benito counties are all considering fracking bans. Beverly Hills also recently passed a ban, becoming the first city to do so.
Asked on CNN recently why he continued to allow fracking given the state’s drought problems, Brown pointed out that California is a leading consumer of oil, and that the state has a long history with domestic production that relies heavily on fracking. “We’re not going to shut down a third of our oil production and force more oil coming from North Dakota, where they are fracking a lot more, and coming by train or boats or ships from all over the world,” Brown said.
Local residents who backed the ban are also thinking big. “I consider the whole idea of fracking to be an insanity, especially in a state where drought is such a problem,” said Live Oak resident Carol Beatty. “My vision is for (the ban) to spread throughout the whole state and throughout the whole country.” [Emphasis added]