Frack is Whack, and Butte’s Stayin’ Clean

In the wake of the recent Board of Supervisors decision to ban the practice of Hydraulic Fracturing in Butte county, local Frack-tivist Dave Garcia sat down with the Synthesis to tell us what the Frack is going on.

Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to the Synthesis! Could you start by giving me a background of how the Frack Free Butte County campaign started?

FFBC Camp started three years ago. I started showing Gasland at house parties, and really just wanted to make fracking a household word. That progressed into more people getting concerned, and we eventually developed a group called Butte Citizen Action Network, which was a loose group of organizations from B.E.C, to Sierra Club, to Citizen’s Water Watch, California Student Sustainability Coalition, Label GMOs, deciding we wanted to do something about fracking in the county. So we started the Frack Free Butte County campaign in order to get a voter referendum, essentially a ban on fracking in Butte County. Currently there is no fracking in Butte and we’d like to keep it that way. So the campaign is in the process of collecting the minimum of 7600 signatures so we can put that on the November ballot. And that would allow residents of the county to decide whether they want to have it in the county versus corporations making that decision for us. We’re looking at a community rights, community sovereignty type of referendum.

You called me right after you were at the Board of Supervisors meeting where the voted to ban fracking in the county. Can you tell us a little about that?

Yeah! That was very exciting. Not only were we working on a voter referendum, but we were also working other angles for trying to get some fracking regulations in the Butte County general plan. Currently the general plan talks about oil and gas extraction which is not allowed in the County, except in the two agricultural zones and the timber zones under a conditional use permit. But under that language, it doesn’t talk about fracking at all. We were trying to get the board of supervisors to implement so kind of restrictions on fracking within the county. We were able to do that by first going to the Butte County Water Commission, and we gave a presentation to them and they voted 6-1 recommending the board of supervisors implement some kind of regulations for fracking. When we did our presentation to the board of supervisors we were originally asking for a conditional use permit with special restrictions for fracking, and we were maybe hoping for the implementation of a moratorium through the board of supervisors. Steve Lambert made the motion to ban fracking, which stunned us because we had no idea they were willing to go that far with the issue, and they didn’t know amongst themselves how much emotion they felt about this issue, and we learned all of that through the discussion.

So now that Butte County has banned the practice of hydraulic fracturing, what does that mean for the campaign? What are the future few months going to look like now?

Weeeelll, it hasn’t quite been banned yet. So they voted to ban it, now county council has to go back and write up language to ban the actual process. We’ve been invited to participate in writing the language, so hopefully in May or June the board will be completing the process. As for our campaign, we still pushing for the voter referendum, because we know we’re up against the richest entity in the world—the oil industry—and they have plenty of money to buy politicians. If we only go with the board’s vote they can easily buy elections and supervisors to overturn that vote. If we can get the referendum through the residents of the county, the only way they could reverse it would be with another referendum or through the courts.

Right now we’re concerned because we’re behind on getting signatures. We’re training people to gather signatures, and are putting out a call to all local residents to assist us in gathering signatures so we can reach the minimum 7600. We’re not out of the woods yet. With the board of supervisors decision, soon big oil will be coming here and tossing money around to overturn what we’ve been doing. We’re the first domino. We’re the first county in California to ban fracking. The oil industry will do whatever they can to make sure this domino doesn’t fall. It’s just starting.

For more information on the Frack Free Butte County Campaign, or to learn how to get involved and sign the petition, check out the group on Facebook: facebook.com/frackfreebuttecounty

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Tommy Diestel can't remember life without music and writing. He began writing for the Synthesis at the ripe age of 19, and aspires to be a life-long writer.