by Leslie Layton
Some 20 Butte County anti-fracking activists turned their sky-blue campaign t-shirts inside out Thursday to comply with rules against politicking in the clerk-recorder’s office, and delivered boxes of petitions to the Registrar of Voters.
Frack-Free Butte County activists said they collected 9,802 signatures that would qualify an initiative for the Nov. 4 ballot that, if approved by voters, would ban fracking and other unconventional oil and gas-extraction methods locally.
And even though there’s not yet been fracking in Butte County — to anyone’s knowledge — 4th District Sen. Jim Nielsen has been quietly lobbying against a ban. In a letter that was sent to many Butte County Republicans and appears to have been authored by Nielsen, the senator calls the ban an “ill-conceived maneuver meant to be symbolic.”
The letter, a copy of which was forwarded to ChicoSol, adds that “symbolism is important,” and, “we’ve got to stop the nannyism and efforts to regulate us all out of business.”
Nielsen urges county residents to join Butte Citizens Against Higher Energy Costs. “You can learn more by visiting our website StoptheButteBan.com,” the letter states.
Nielsen had not yet returned a call for comment when this article was posted.
The website page Nielsen mentions in the letter has been published on the Californians for a Safe, Secure Energy Future site. That organization is a coalition that includes oil-industry lobbying groups.
Nielsen was one of 16 state senators voting down a bill that would have placed a moratorium on unconventional oil and gas development in the state — including fracking — on May 29. The final vote on Senate Bill 1132 was 16-16.
MapLight, a non-partisan organization that researches relationships between money and politics, shows that Nielsen accepted $21,300 in oil and gas-industry campaign contributions from 2009 to 2012. Assemblyman Dan Logue, whose 3rd district includes Chico, received $23,300 between Jan 1, 2011, and Dec 31, 2012.
Though Nielsen’s letter says the Frack-Free Butte County “crowd” is opposed to any kind of “safe domestic oil production in California,” the fracktivists say that’s just not true. “We’re not opposed to normal [extraction] methods,” said Marlene Del Rosario, a member of the group who hauled boxes of petitions to the courthouse Thursday. “We just want [fracking] banned until they can prove that it’s safe.”
Leslie Layton is a freelance writer who publishes ChicoSol. Follow her on Twitter at @ChicoSolNews.