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Fracking in California: A Water Issue

Update on: Butte County, California, Fracking Ban Initiative, Measure E (June 2016)

A Butte County Fracking Ban Initiative ballot question was on the election ballot for voters in Butte County, California, on June 7, 2016. It was approved.

A "yes" vote was a vote in favor of enacting citizen initiative Measure E and prohibiting hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, and related gas and oil extraction activities.

Thank you to all those who persistently advocated for our local water resulting in this inititative to ban fracking in Butte County!

Working Towards a Ban on Fracking in Butte County

fracking butte county victory

BEC has been working with a large group of concerned citizens on efforts to ban the practice of natural gas extraction using hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as "fracking".  The efforts began in summer of 2013 and continues today.  

There have been two parallel efforts moving forward :

1. A citizen-driven ballot initiative to ban fracking by a vote of the people

  • ​Scheduled for the June 7, 2016 election, this ballot initiative will give citizens of Butte County an opportunity to vote yes or no, whether to ban fracking.
  • Frack-Free Butte County organizers worked to gather over 10,000 signatures during spring of 2014. (Over 7900 signatures were validated and the initiative petition was certified on July 29, 2014.)
  • This effort overcame a legal challenge after the validity of the petition format and wording was challenged by an oil industry law firm.  (See articles below.)

2. A County-driven ordinance to ban fracking

  • On April 8, 2014, the Butte County Board of Supervisors voted 4 to 1 in favor of a "motion of intent" to ban fracking.  That vote directed County staff draft an ordinance banning the process of fracking.
  • The Butte County Planning Commission was presented with an Ordinance to Ban Fracking and the matter was considered at two public hearings n October 23 and December 11, 2014.  The Butte County Planning Commission asked staff to draft a second ordinance, more narrow in scope, that would have only banned injection wells for the disposal of fracking waste fluids.  This alternate ordinance was considered but no recommendation was made by the Planning Commission because Commissioners votes were split on the question of which ordinance to recommend and whether to made a recommendation at all.
  • The Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the ordinance to ban fracking on February 10, 2015.

For news and developments about this topic, read on...

Judge orders Butte County County Clerk to count signatures and report results at next Board of Supervisors meeting, July 29th, 2014.

In a classic court case of local interests vs. out-of-county money, the people of Butte County won an important victory!  Frack-Free Butte County submitted an initiative petition to Ban Hydraulic Fracturing with over 10,000 signatures on June 5, to the get the measure on the November ballot. The initiative petition had been rejected by the County Clerk on the basis of two minor defects brought to her attention in a letter from attorneys in San Rafael.  The Superior Court Judge agreed, however, with County Counsel that these were not substantive errors.

“We couldn't  be more pleased that the judge supported the interests of the people of Butte County today,” stated Joni Stellar (citizen petitioner.) “Our rights to utilize the initiative process to protect our water, our air and our communities from the known and unknown hazards of fracking have been clearly upheld by this ruling.”


BEC joined dozens of citizen activists at a public hearing on fracking at the Butte County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, April 8th.

The hearing was held on the question of whether to limit or regulate the practice of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in Butte County through a change to the Zoning Code, which would have required a conditional use permit and environmental review.  The outcome of the discussion was that the Supervisors voiced support for a ban on fracking.  That was a better outcome than any of us could have predicted.  You can imagine the cheers and excitement from the crowd during the discussion and the final vote!  It felt like a huge victory for all who have worked to push this issue over the past year and a half!

But wait: we haven't banned fracking yet!  The next step is to show support for the FULL ban at an upcoming Supervisors meeting, which will likely take place in January or February. BEC will be involved in advocating for the final adoption of the ordinance, and we'll keep you posted as things develop.

Meanwhile, grassroots efforts continue for a fracking ban. Volunteers are needed now throughout Butte County. To get involved in the Frack-Free Butte County campaign, visit:  

For a more lengthy articles and photos by Karen Laslo please go to

Sign the MoveOn petition to BAN fracking in California.

View the Chico Environmental Coalition's fracking comment letter.

See BEC's position on fracking expressed in a recently submitted comment letter from January 24th, 2013.

See the comment letter from a statewide coalition of environmental groups including Citizens Water Watch and the Environmental Water Caucus, of which BEC is a member.

Map of active gas wells in Butte County


Join the largest anti-fracking mobilization in California history and tell Governor Brown how you feel about fracking. Join in on the statewide solidarity and fun, with people from San Diego to Eureka. 

When:    Saturday, March 15, 2014 at 1pm
Where:   California State Capitol, 1315 10th St, Sacramento.
Chico Bus: Loading at Butte College Chico Center, 2320 Forest Ave, Chico, next to Lowe's parking lot. Bus leaves at 10am and returns at 6:30pm

Sign-up and reserve your bus seat here.$20 donation to help off set expenses; we have student scholarship seats. Call 530-218-5133 or email Dave for details.  Sign-up locally on Facebook --this event is posted by Frack-Free Butte County.  We are planning a sign making day and prizes for the best sign, anti-fracking slogan, and song! This is California's worst historic drought and we can't devote our precious water to fracking. We need to protect our water, air, food and soil from the contamination of toxic carcinogenic frack fluids. Join in solidarity to tell Governor Brown: DON'T FRACK CALIFORNIA!

What is Fracking?

Hydraulic Fracturing (Fracking) is an energy extraction process that features mixing millions of gallons of fresh water with toxic industrial chemicals and sand. The mixture is blasted at underground shale, releasing oil and gas when the shale breaks apart. From Dave Garcia's whitepaper on fracking:

Depending on the depth and lateral length of the well, one million to 15 million gallons of water may be required. The well is fracked numerous times, possibly using up to 60 million gallons, or 20 acre-feet of freshwater. This is enough water for 20 families of 4 people to use for an entire year; a tremendously water-intensive extraction process for a state with a current water shortage problem.  (Read the rest of the article)

With so much at stake for agriculturalists, ranchers, fisherfolk, breweries (ahem), wineries, and everyone that drinks water (don't forget, 80% of Butte County residents rely on groundwater for their drinking water!) --the idea that we would sacrifice our long-term access to clean water in exchange for the illusory benefit of "cheap energy" is pure craziness. Keep in mind that Big Oil & Gas spend $4 million per year lobbying Sacramento, and an average of $400,000 per DAY lobbying the US Congress to weaken public health safeguards and keep tax subsidies of FOUR BILLION DOLLARS per year. This may explain why environmental groups'  efforts to get the Federal government to regulate fracking for the last two years have fallen on deaf ears.

This map shows the location of fracking wells in our region.


The more you learn about fracking the more terrifying it becomes. Hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking, is the current extreme form of oil and gas extraction. The fossil fuel industry’s mantra of “Fracking is safe and has never contaminated groundwater,” is a myth they continue to trumpet. Read more...