Butte County Fracking Ban Initiative (November 2016)

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A Butte County Fracking Ban Initiative ballot question will be on the election ballot in November 2016 for voters in Butte County, California. Proponents of this measure hoped to put it on the November 4, 2014 election ballot, but the Butte County Supervisors commissioned a 30-day review which delayed the initiative process beyond the deadline for the 2014 ballot.[1]

If approved, this measure would prohibit hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, and related gas and oil extraction activities. The Citizen Action Network (CAN), coordinating with the Butte Environmental Council, started a petition drive campaign called Frack-Free Butte County to put this initiative on the November ballot. The petitioners needed to collect and submit 7,560 valid signatures by June 1, 2014, to qualify its initiative for the ballot. In late May, the group announced that it had collected over 10,000 signatures and that petitioners were confident their initiative would qualify for the ballot.[2][3][4]

Proponents point out that the initiative does not seek a permanent ban on fracking in the county, but only requires a moratorium on the process until further research can be done and regulations sufficient to satisfy concerns can be put in place. Water Commissioner Ryan Schohr, however, was doubtful that the moratorium would ever be lifted. he said, "Essentially it would be a complete ban. By the nature of it, some of those hydrocarbons may be considered unsafe by somebody."[5][6]

The California State Legislature enacted a law, Senate Bill 4, to regulate oil and gas extraction, including fracking.[7] Supporters of the Butte County fracking moratorium initiative, however, believe that the legislation is too lax on the industry and does not provide necessary safeguards for residents and the natural resources on which they rely. Chuck Greenwood of Citizens Action Network said, "We're taking the basic position that we can't rely on federal and state people." Joni Stellar, media coordinator for CAN, said, "We are uncomfortable with the laxness of the language in SB4. Existing wells are exempted."[5]

Supervisors ordinance

On April 8, 2014, Butte County Supervisors voted four-against-one to instruct county staff to draft an ordinance banning the process of fracking. If this ordinance had been approved by the supervisors and was strict enough to satisfy anti-fracking activists, the Citizen Action Network might have dropped its efforts to put this initiative on the November ballot. On February 10, 2015, however, the county supervisors voted to reject the proposed ordinance and instructed county officials to draft an ordinance that would allow case-by-case consideration and permits for oil and gas extraction projects instead.[8][9]

Text of measure

The full text of the initiative petition is below:[10]

Fracking Ordinance For Butte County
Ban on Hydraulic Fracturing

WHEREAS, "Hydraulic fracturing" means techniques used in preparing a well that, in whole or in part, typically involve the pressurized injection of water and chemicals, compounds, and materials into an underground geologic formation in order to expand existing fractures or create new fractures in that formation, thereby causing or enhancing the production of oil or gas from a well. For the purposes of this ordinance, hydraulic fracturing shall include the terms "fracking," "hydrofracking," "hydrofracturing," "unconventional well stimulation," and any other nontraditional oil and gas recovery techniques, including procedures commonly referred to as "acidization," "acid fracturing," and "gravel packing;" and

WHEREAS, hydraulic fracturing is a new and distinct land use that has not been approved by Butte County; and

WHEREAS, hydraulic fracturing is a type of land use that is incompatible with other land uses in Butte County; and

WHEREAS, fracking uses extensive amounts of water thus reducing the availability of water for agricultural, residential, commercial and other public uses; and

WHEREAS, the use of toxic chemicals in fracking operations and the subsequent need to dispose of the residue from fracking activities (e.g. through injection wells) can cause serious harm to the surface and groundwater supply and contaminate the land either directly or through leaky wells; and

WHEREAS, air quality and the effect of emissions of pollutants are of major concern to public health, safety and welfare of Butte County residents; and fracking activities are known to generate numerous types of air pollutants, including volatile organic compounds ("VOCs"), methanol, formaldehyde, and carbon disulfide; and fracking can result in serious regional air pollution problems and contribute to smog formation; and

WHEREAS: hydraulic fracturing and disposal of fracking byproducts by injection contribute to the risk and severity of earthquake activity; and

WHEREAS, the prosperity, health, safety and well-being of Butte County citizens depend on the availability of dean water, unpolluted air and land free from contamination; and

WHEREAS, state law and the California Constitution expressly reserve the authority of local governments to determine the zoning and land use appropriate for each county.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the County of Butte does hereby declare its right and responsibility to preserve the integrity of local water, land and air quality as the foundation for economic, environmental and human health security by adopting the following ordinance:

1) An immediate ban on land use involving fracking, acidization, and other well stimulation techniques, and related activities, including the disposal of fracking byproducts within the County's boundaries;

2) Full public disclosure and testing of all existing fracking sites and injection/disposal wells, and allowing government access and testing of the chemicals used in fracking operations;

3) This ordinance shall exempt any and all vested rights in well stimulation. A person claiming a vested right must demonstrate to the County through clear and convincing evidence that a vested right exists. If proven to exist, the vested right shall expire upon completion of the first occurrence of the claimant's well stimulation. The drilling, maintenance, or operation of an existing well does not constitute a vested right to use fracking or other unconventional well stimulation;

4) The passage of this ordinance shall require, as needed, amendments to the Butte County General Plan within the elements of land use, water, and air quality;

5) This ordinance shall remain in effect until the Butte County Board of Supervisors determines that the State has enacted and enforced regulations that provide sufficiently thorough protections to public health and safety, and natural resources of the state, including full and advance public disclosure and testing of all fracking sites and injection/disposal wells while allowing government access to and testing of the chemicals used in specific fracking and related operations.[11]




  • The Citizen Action Network (CAN) started the petition drive campaign called Frack-Free Butte County to put this initiative on the November ballot.[3]
  • The Butte Environmental Council also worked with CAN to put the initiative imposing a moratorium on fracking in Butte county on the ballot and is campaigning in support of it.[12]

The chief petitioners who signed the Notice of Intent to Circulate for this initiative were:[10]

  • Charles R. Greenwood, Bangor, CA
  • Joni C. Stellar, Concow, CA
  • John Hale, Paradise, CA
  • Marlene Del Rosario, Oroville, CA

Arguments in favor

Proponents of a fracking ban point to the pollution of water as the number one reason to prohibit the practice in Butte County. Dave Garcia, founder of CAN, said, “We must protect our most valuable resource - water. It is vital to our number one industry–agriculture. Groundwater provides domestic water for over 60% of Butte County residents. Fracking wastes vast quantities of water–gone for good. Toxic fracking fluid risks contaminating our groundwater.”[4]

Petitioners and initiative supporters are also concerned with the following alleged side effects of fracking:[4]

  • increased earthquake risks
  • noxious air causing increased cancer, asthma and other illnesses
  • methane contributing to climate change
  • decreased land values
  • increased difficulty in getting property insurance near fracking sites


See also: Fracking in California
Map of oil and gas wells in Butte County, CA

The process of fracking is under heavy scrutiny in California. The 2014 California Democratic Party Platform called for an immediate moratorium on fracking, a position not supported by California's Democratic Governor Jerry Brown. Fracking has been occurring in California for more than 30 years.[13][14][15]

Native Americans are the first recorded group to have collected oil in California. The first oil company began mining and distilling oil in 1856, and, in 1950, California produced 331 million barrels of oil. Several large natural gas fields were found throughout the 1970s and 1980s.[16] The Monterey Shale formation in California was expected to hold 15.4 billion barrels of oil, or 65 percent of the technically recoverable shale oil in the lower 48 states, according to a 2012 report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. In May 2014, however, they adjusted their estimate. Due to "the industry's difficulty in producing from the region," the estimate was revised down to 600 million barrels of recoverable oil.[17][18][19][20] To the right is a map of all the oil and gas wells in Butte County as of May 8, 2014. A black star denotes an area of oil and gas well activity.[21] There are no oil or gas wells in Butte County, although there are wells in nearby Glenn County to the left and Tehama County to the upper left.

The Department of Conservation's Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) oversees oil and gas development in California. Water resources are regulated by the Regional Water Quality Control Boards (RWQCB) and the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB).[13] According to the DOGGR, most of the oil and gas production in California is happening using vertical wells that are drilled into traditional oil and natural gas reservoirs. The DOGGR regulates well casings, cements and the other aspects of protecting underground and surface water resources. Under current law the DOGGR does not need to be notified when a well is fractured.[22] In 2013 the California State Legislature passed Senate Bill 4, regulating well stimulation, which includes fracking and other activities. Senate Bill 4 requires interim well regulations that are now in effect, a separate set of regulations that go into effect in 2015, the adoption of environmental impact reports in 2015 and well stimulation permits. These permits are publicly available on the DOGGR's website.[23]

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing local ballot measures in California


The Citizen Action Network (CAN), which is orchestrating the Frack-Free Butte County movement, needed to turn in 7,560 valid signatures by June 1, 2014, to qualify its initiative for the ballot. In late May, the group announced that it collected enough signatures to surpass the required threshold and that petitioners were confident their initiative would qualify for the ballot once signatures were investigated by the county registrar of voters. Clerk-Recorder and Chief Elections Officer Candace Grubbsis announced that the county elections office had conduced a 500 signature random sampling of the 8,748 submitted signatures, but it was not conclusive enough to satisfy elections code. Thus, a full check of all the signatures was conducted.[2][4][24]

Enough signatures were found to be valid, qualifying this initiative for the ballot. The Butte County Supervisors, however, commissioned a 30-day review which delayed the initiative process beyond the deadline for the 2014 ballot and required that the measure go on the ballot in 2016.[1]


On June 6, 2014, attorney Sean P. Welch of the San Rafael-based firm Nielsen, Merksamer, Parrinello, Gross and Leoni filed a lawsuit against the initiative proponents on behalf of an opposing group called Californians for a Safe Secure Energy Future. The lawsuit claimed that the initiative petition sheets that were submitted had several fatal legal flaws that made it invalid. The county clerk halted the process of certifying signatures while the court case was resolved. The suit claimed that the petition did not comply with county and state elections law with regard to wording and formatting. In a preliminary ruling on July 23, 2014, Butte County Superior Court Judge Robert Glusman decided that the petitions' faults, which were admitted by the petitioners, were not significant enough to impede the initiative process.[24]

Similar measures

See also: Notable 2014 local measures

Local measures

Approveda Denton, Texas (November 2014)
Approveda Athens, Ohio Issue 7 (November 2014)
Defeatedd Santa Barbara, California Measure P (November 2014)
Approveda San Benito County, California Measure J (November 2014)
Approveda Mendocino County, California Measure S (November 2014)
Defeatedd Gates Mills, Ohio Issue 51 (November 2014)
Defeatedd Youngstown, Ohio Issue 4 (November 2014)
Defeatedd Kent, Ohio Issue 21
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot City of Niles "Community Bill of Rights" Fracking Ban Initiative (November 2014) Approveda
Defeatedd City of Loveland Two Year Fracking Suspension Initiative, Question 1 (June 2014)
Defeatedd Youngstown "Community Bill of Rights" Fracking Ban Charter Amendment (May 2014)
Defeatedd Johnson County Fracking Ban Referendum (March 2014)

Statewide measures

Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot Colorado Fracking Ban Initiative (2014)
Proposed ballot measures that were not on a ballot Michigan Fracking Ban Initiative (2014)

See also

External links

Suggest a link

Basic info


Additional reading


  1. 1.0 1.1 KRCRTV, "Anti-fracking measure headed to 2016 Ballot," August 26, 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 ChicoER News, "Butte County group says it collects enough signatures to put fracking ban proposal on ballot," May 29, 2014
  3. 3.0 3.1 Frack Free Butte County website, accessed March 16, 2014
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Gridley Herald, "Ban fracking in Butte County? Volunteers seek signatures to bring question to the voters," March 11, 2014
  5. 5.0 5.1 ChicoER News, "Group is working for Butte County fracking moratorium," December 16, 2013
  6. ChicoER News, "Fracking: Should Butte County call a moratorium?," January 17, 2014
  7. LegiScan, "California Senate Bill 4," accessed March 16, 2014
  8. Oroville MR News, "Butte supervisors move to ban 'fracking'," April 8, 2014
  9. News Review, "Fracking ban fails: Board of Supervisors fails to vote on the controversial practice," February 12, 2015
  10. 10.0 10.1 Butte County Clerk-Recorder's office, "Notice of Intent to Circulate for Frack-Free Butte County initiative," accessed March 16, 2014 (dead link)
  11. Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  12. Butte Environmental Council website, accessed March 16, 2014
  13. 13.0 13.1 Berkeley Law, "Regulation of Hydraulic Fracturing in California: A Wastewater and Water Quality Perspective," April 2013
  14. Think Progress, "Fracking is Creating a Rift Between Governor Jerry Brown And Some California Democrats," March 13, 2014
  15. Environmental Engineering & Contracting, Inc., "A Brief History of Hydraulic Fracturing," accessed May 6, 2014
  16. California Department of Conservation, "California Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources: an Introduction," 1993
  17. U.S. Energy Information Administration, "Review of emerging resources: U.S. shale gas and shale oil plays," accessed May 6, 2014
  18. One barrel of oil produces about 19 gallons of gas U.S. Energy Information Administration, "Frequently Asked Questions," May 30, 2013, accessed March 18, 2014
  19. Reuters, "UPDATE 2-U.S. EIA cuts recoverable Monterey shale oil estimate by 96 pct," May 21, 201
  20. Bloomberg, "EIA Cuts Monterey Shale Estimates on Extraction Challenges," May 21, 2014
  21. Department of Conservation, "Division of Oil, Gas, & Geothermal Resources Well Finder," accessed May 7, 2014
  22. Department of Conservation, "Hydraulic Fracturing in California," accessed May 7, 2014
  23. Department of Conservation, "Well Stimulation," accessed May 7, 2014
  24. 24.0 24.1 Chico ER, "Judge clears way for anti-fracking petition to move forward," July 23, 2014