San Benito and Mendocino County, California residents on Tuesday approved Measures J and S, respectively, which are ballot measures that ban fracking in the Coast Range Mountains and Northern California communities.
Ironically, according to Southern California Public Radio, critics of the measure point out that no fracking currently takes place in San Benito or Mendocino counties, and no plans exist to begin fracking there.
According to San Benito County official election results, Measure J passed by a margin of 57.36-42.64%, with over 8,000 ballots cast. Measure S in Mendocino passed with 67 % of the vote.
Environmentalists in San Benito County, frustrated with Governor Jerry Brown’s unwillingness to ban fracking statewide, placed the measure on the ballot as an “end-run” around state politicians, reports the San Jose Mercury News.
That prompted Mendocino and Santa Barbara counties to place anti-fracking measure on their own ballots; while Measures J and S were successful, Santa Barbara County’s Measure P failed decisively, garnering just 37% support. Perhaps most ironically, Santa Barbara County is the only one of the three where companies use the controversial oil extraction technique.
“Onshore oil and gas production has operated safely for over a century in the county, and…voters have reaffirmed their desire for safe oil and gas production to continue,” No on P campaign spokesman Jim Byrne told SCPR.
Measures S and J passed despite fierce spending from the opposition, which reportedly included money from oil companies Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Occidental Petroleum. According to the Mercury News, oil companies and others spent $1.8 million in an effort to defeat Measure J, outspending supporters 15-1.
Opponents of Measures S and J have reportedly threatened to sue to take the approved legislation to court; opponents of Measure P in Santa Barbara County had planned to sue if the legislation passed.
“This is where the oil is,” oil well rights-holder Ed Hazard told SCPR. “My family cannot move the mineral rights. This is where Mother Nature put them. We use the oil here. Why on earth wouldn’t we want to produce it here?”
Forthcoming lawsuits against Measures S and J may not be so far-fetched; according to the results of a reader poll conducted by the Hollister Free Lance in San Benito County, most residents believe that ultimately “the courts will have to decide” the fate of Measure J.
Earlier this year, Los Angeles also banned fracking–also in the absence of any evidence that fracking was actually talking place.