San Benito County group pushes for anti-fracking ballot initiative

San Benito Rising organizers collect over four thousand signatures in support of ballot iniative

AROMAS, Calif. - San Benito Rising group organizers hope an anti-fracking initiative would go on the November ballot for San Benito County voters. It would still allow conventional oil drilling in the area but it would ban high-intensity petroleum operations, known as fracking and acidization.

The group Tuesday had boxes of over 4,000 signatures, all in support of the initiative. The group turned the signatures in to the county Elections Office for certification.

"We decided that this would be, probably the best way to prevent the kind of development, that we have seen in other states already," said Mary Hsia-Coron.

San Benito Rising, the grassroots organization pushing the initiative, said if the measure passes, San Benito County will be one of California's first counties to ban high intensity petroleum operations in the state.

Organizers say it would also ban any oil drilling operations in residential areas. They say many landowners aren't protected.

"Most of the properties in the county are what's called split-estates, people don't own their mineral rights. So someone can come in and state drilling without getting your permission," said Msia-Coron.

Last June, county supervisors updated the county's oil and well ordinance. Supervisor Jerry Muenzer says the goal of the updated ordinance was two fold: protect land but allow further oil explorations.

San Benito Rising organizers say even with the changes the ordinance hasn't stopped oil companies from requesting permits for new wells.

"There is not sufficient protection with the oil and gas ordinance, so something like the initiative which bans these more dangerous techniques is more responsible," said Msia-Coron.

The group only needed just over 1,000 signatures to make it on the ballot but went the extra mile collecting thousands more. Those signatures still need to be verified before the measure can make it to the November ballot.

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