Measure E Supporters Canvassed to Ban Fracking in Butte

Melinda Vasquez
 

photo by Karen Laslo

 Melinda Vasquez takes a break from canvassing

Editor’s Note:  Measure E to ban hydraulic fracturing in Butte County had passed with 71.5 percent of the vote, according to election results on June 8. This story was written during spring semester at Chico State.

By Maria Miyashiro

Melinda Vasquez knocks on a door at the sea-green apartment complex. She is greeted by a woman, who notifies her Chihuahua she’s “going to spank your butt” if the dog doesn’t stop barking. The dog quiets down.

Vasquez begins her inquiry: Whether her neighbor is familiar with the Yes-on-Measure-E campaign to ban fracking, a question she’s asked dozens of times at doors in the Memorial Neighborhood of Chico just in the last hour.

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County Goof Shaped Fracking Debate

SnellingsCalarco_251_276

photo by Leslie Layton

by Leslie Layton

One of the key arguments made during the local fracking debate was based, at least in part, on an erroneous statement by county officials, ChicoSol has learned.

As a draft ordinance to prevent fracking was debated at public meetings early this year and last year, opponents often argued that a Butte County ban would serve a symbolic rather than regulatory role. The Butte County Department of Development Services (DDS) provided a key piece of evidence for that argument: No one, they said, had applied for a conditional use permit to drill a new gas well in more than 25 years.

But ChicoSol, working with partner Chico News & Review, has learned that for 22 of those 25 years, conditional use permits weren’t sought from the county for an astonishingly simple reason: They weren’t required. Butte County didn’t require conditional use permits for gas-well drilling until it adopted a new zoning code on Nov. 6, 2012.

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How the Fight to Ban Fracking Turned Partisan

by Leslie Layton

It cost the oil-and-gas industry some pocket change (about $100 grand) to accomplish its mission in Butte County. If I had a leaked memo, the mission might have been described this way: Stop cold the county’s ordinance to ban fracking, reframe their debate.

On Feb. 10, the Board of Supervisors rejected a 13-page ordinance to ban fracking written by Butte County attorneys who had conducted research over a period of months. Chair Doug Teeter and supervisors Steve Lambert and Bill Connelly said they had changed their position on the issue — but not because of “threats” as had been suggested.

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County Commission Hesitant to Endorse Fracking Ban

by Leslie Layton

Butte County planning commissioners debated last week an ordinance to ban fracking, finally tabling a measure they said might be purely symbolic.

And if an ordinance that would ban fracking in Butte County is a symbolic gesture — as some argue — the importance of the symbolism to the state’s oil-and-gas industry was clear at the Oct. 23 meeting. The Commission faced upfront industry lobbying from statewide groups opposed to a local ban.

After hearing testimony from more than 30 people, the Commission voted 4-0 to table the matter until its Dec. 11 meeting. (Commissioner Harrel Wilson was absent.) Perhaps more telling, the commissioners also voted 4-0 to pare down the draft ordinance by about 95 percent in order to consider an abbreviated version that would only ban the disposal of fracking by-products in Butte County.

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Strategists Work for The Industry, Oppose Fracking Ban

by Leslie Layton

When Robin Cook addressed Butte County supervisors to ask for a 30-day study on a ballot initiative that would ban fracking, she talked convincingly about her concern for her father’s —and the county’s— finances.

“My family owns property that has a capped well,” she told supervisors at their July 29 meeting. “From what we can understand … this would be a takings of our property. The debate today is about the … petition coming before you and whether or not that language is bankruptcy language for this county. Nobody wants to see this county be lost in a big old mess of lawsuits.”

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Anti-Fracking Ballot Initiative Faces Two-Year Delay

Ballot_Initiative_Opponents 07-30-2014

by Leslie Layton

The grass-roots campaign to ban fracking in Butte County via ballot initiative came to a crashing halt with a July 29 vote by the Board of Supervisors. The supervisors voted, 4-1, in favor of a 30-day study of the initiative rather than to place it on the Nov. 4 ballot.

The board also said it would proceed with work on an ordinance county attorneys are writing that would also ban fracking and that would likely include more detail and definition of terms. That’s been underway since the board’s April 8 meeting, when supervisors voted 4-1 in favor of a county-wide fracking ban.

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