Thursday, May 5, 2016

Fracking issue in Monterey County advances towards the November Ballot

James Herrera - Monterey Herald
An anti-fracking proponent speaks to a reporter as volunteers and supporters of the Protect Our Water initiative pose for a group photo after a press conference at a trail head to the Fort Ord National Monument in Salinas on Wednesday.

Salinas >> The group Protect Monterey County held a press conference Wednesday morning before delivering 16,108 signatures, more than double the amount needed to get the measure in front of voters in November, in support of an initiative to ban fracking and dangerous oil production practices in Monterey County.

The Protect Our Water: Ban Fracking and Limit Risky Oil Operations initiative:
• Bans fracking, acidizing, and other risky well stimulation treatments.
• Bans new, and phases out existing, wastewater injection wells and wastewater ponds. 80 percent of Monterey County’s wastewater injection wells are currently injecting contaminated water into protected aquifers, in violation of the U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act. There are safer alternatives for disposing of wastewater from oil production. For example, San Ardo’s wastewater treatment facility can currently clean up to 1/3 of the oil field’s wastewater using reverse osmosis technology. Why not clean up the other 2/3 instead of injecting it into protected aquifers? Wastewater ponds are a well-known hazard for surface water, groundwater, and wildlife. These should be phased out.
• Bans new oil and gas wells within Monterey County. The easy-to-extract oil has been removed. Any new drilling would rely on high-risk methods, which endanger our water, health, and economy. 
The initiative does not prohibit Monterey County’s more than 1,500 existing oil and gas wells. They can continue to operate.

But a group called the Monterey County Citizens for Energy Independence opposes this initiative.  It says that Senate Bill 4, signed into law in 2013 by Governor Brown, created the most transparent and stringent environmental protections in the country for well stimulation.

According to the Energy Independence website, Senate Bill 4 requires:
 An independent, science-based study of fracking
 The development of a comprehensive EIR
 A mandatory public disclosure of all chemicals used
 Well integrity testing before and after fracturing
 Regular testing of nearby drinking water sources
 Prior notification of surrounding land owners.

The initiative was drafted by a coalition of concerned citizens with the help of the environmental law firm of Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger.

After the press conference, the Protect Monterey County group headed to the Monterey County Elections Office to submit the petitions for consideration.

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