Don’t freak out about fracking ban’s defeat

Dylan Dewit

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Illustration by Miles Huffman

On Feb. 10, the Butte County Board of Supervisors let an ordinance die that would have instituted a ban on hydraulic fracturing.

I am anti-fracking myself. It is a detriment to the fresh drinking water of California, a resource that cannot afford to be compromised.

However, the bill that died was not as comprehensive as many anti-fracking individuals might have liked. It was simply a ban on the process of hydraulically fracturing for fuel, which would have only covered half of what is really needed in Butte County.

The drafted ordinance did not include a ban on the dumping of out-of-county waste within Butte County, which may be the most pressing issue for Butte County given the importance of agriculture in this region.

Presentations by Steve Bohlen, supervisor at the state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, and Chico State professor Todd Greene both illustrated why Butte County has little to fear when it comes to fracking.

Bohlen made the point that the county has no active fuel wells that are hydraulically fractured, and Dr. Greene gave a presentation on the fracking process.

Both experts noted that Butte County is not geologically appropriate for fracking anyway.

This might have been what led the Board of Supervisors to withhold from taking any action. Supervisor Steve Lambert said he did not want the ordinance to be merely a symbolic gesture, and that he did not want Butte County to be a “trendsetter.”

However, San Benito and Mendocino counties both voted to approve bans on fracking in November’s election, so Butte County would only have been the third to get a ban through.

While a county ordinance would have been great, the county needs a more comprehensive, voter-approved ban on all hydraulic fracturing that includes clauses banning outside drillers from dumping waste.

The Board of Supervisors might not get that done, especially considering that it suggested any further action wait until after the state’s study on Senate Bill 4 is released in June.

The most effective action against fracking will have to be voter driven.

The Butte County Fracking Ban Initiative will be on the June 2016 ballot. The measure was intended to be on last November’s ballot, but a discrepancy over petition signatures caused it to miss the deadline for submission, delaying it until next year.

My hope is that citizens take appropriate action to protect the county’s already scarce water supply and approve a ban that will keep Butte County exempt from hydraulic fracturing, as well as protecting county land from being used to dump chemical waste of any kind.

Voters in Butte County cannot rely on the Board of Supervisors to take this kind of action. So get to the ballot box in June 2016 and make it happen.

It’s our county, and it needs our help.

Dylan de Wit can be reached at [email protected] or @DylanTdeWit on Twitter.

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