San Benito County's Bright & Fracking-Free Future

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Hooray! Today we raise a glass -- of fresh drinking water -- in cheer to celebrate San Benito County's victory. Citadel Exploration has withdrawn its lawsuit challenging this central California County's ban on fracking and other high-intensity petroleum operations. It's a big win for a community that has united and stood up for its ground in the face of oil industry dollars and threats.

At a meeting in Salinas a couple weeks ago, I got to talk to two of the leaders of San Benito Rising, Mary and Andy Hsia-Coron, who were instrumental in collecting signatures and passing the ballot initiative (Measure J) that banned fracking in the county. Mary spoke about how her work to ban fracking in their county is rooted in her belief that the local land and water has a bright future. In an email last night from Andy, where he announced Citadel's voluntary dismissal of its lawsuit, he wrote that the people of San Benito "chose a brighter future than fracking and the law supports the right of our community and other communities to make this choice. Hopefully this outbreak of democracy will be contagious."

This bellwether county's win is a call to action for every city and county in the state considering a ban or moratorium on fracking. I'm talking to you Monterey County. And you, City of Los Angeles.


We know firsthand that the promise Mary and Andy speak of can be realized. Joe and Kathy Spencer run a 100+-year-old ranch in southern San Benito County and have a way of life and a relationship with the land that is rich and vibrant. Citadel -- the very oil corporation that just dropped its challenge to Measure J -- had plans to drill for oil next door to the Spencers' ranch. And before Measure J was passed, Joe and Kathy worried about the disaster that would follow if oil companies drained their aquifers. The Spencers talked to us about their struggle to protect their way of life in this short video last year:

As Joe says, "You can't raise cattle without water. You can't live there without water."


And today, I imagine the water on the Spencer ranch tastes just a little bit sweeter. I know the glass I'm drinking does.

Photo credit: Sarah Craig/NRDC