Monday, November 03, 2014

Texas, Ohio towns, California counties to vote on fracking bans during Tuesday's election

Voters in five towns in Texas and Ohio and three counties in California will have the opportunity to voice their support or opposition to hydraulic fracturing during Tuesday's elections, reports Zahra Hirji for InsideClimate News. Fracking initiatives are on the ballot in Denton, Texas; in Ohio in Athens, Gates Mills, Kent and Youngstown; and in California counties Santa Barbara, San Benito and Mendocino.

Denton, a rapidly growing town with a population of 123,000, could be the first Texas town to ban fracking. Denton, which has an estimated 270 wells, became the center of controversy last year when residents blamed respiratory problems on fracking fumes, James Osborne reports for The Dallas Morning News. City officials enacted rules restricting drilling activity within 1,200 feet of homes, but the driller argued successfully in court it did not apply to existing wells.

Fracking opponents "collected 2,000 signatures, forcing the City Council to either ban fracking inside the city limits or put it to voters. In July, the council voted 5-2 for a referendum," Osborne writes. Since then, money has been pouring in from the oil and gas industry, with Denton Taxpayers for a Strong Economy, the leading group opposing the ban, having "raised almost $700,000 since July, almost all of which came from energy companies including Chevron, XTO Energy and Chesapeake Energy."

The same thing has happened in California, where "Chevron, ExxonMobil and other oil companies have donated about $7 million to try to defeat the fracking bans in Santa Barbara, San Benito and Monterey counties," Ellen Knickmeyer reports for The Associated Press. "In Santa Barbara and San Benito counties, the ballot measures would ban not only fracking but one of the most commonly used drilling methods in the state, steam injection."

Colorado Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, who has said he will do whatever it takes to beat anti-fracking initiatives, in August reached a compromise on local control of oil and gas drilling to remove all the initiatives on the issue from the November ballot. But anti-fracking initiatives remain on the ballots for the three Colorado towns.

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