Oilco’s spend $9 million to defeat county anti-fracking efforts in CA

According to this excellent story from Reporting on Health fellow Leilani Clark, oil companies such as Aera, Chevron, and Exxon-Mobil have donated more than $1.7 million to efforts to defeat Proposition J in San Benito county, which would ban fracking. 

Ever heard of San Benito? True confession: I hadn't. Despite spending most of my life in California. 

San Benito, located perhaps fifty miles south of San Jose, turns out to be tiny. Less than 60k humans, and a lot of cows. An experienced activist with Food and Water Watch told me the county has about 24k voters. Some of those voters are ranchers, and some of them don't like the idea of fracking. 

Every morning, just after breakfast, Joe Morris heads out to check the water for his herd of 130 pasture-raised cattle. This year, thanks to California’s extreme drought, the creeks on his property have run dry.

“A herd of cattle without water is not a pretty sight,” says Morris, a rancher who has practiced holistic management of the water and soil on his family’s San Juan Bautista ranch since 1991.

Morris Grassfed Beef is part of a large network of organic ranches, farms, and vineyards in San Benito County, a rural enclave just south of the San Francisco Bay Area, where farming is a way of life. Earthbound Farms, the largest industrial grower of organic produce in the U.S. is located here, along with dozens of smaller operations that produce much of the local meat, vegetables, and fruit relied upon by chefs and restaurants in nearby urban areas. All these farms rely on water, but the drought isn’t their only concern. Farmers and ranchers like Morris also worry that the area’s precious water might go toward hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” in the county.

As one of two counties with fracking bans on the local ballot this November, San Benito County has also become the site of a heated political battle between oil companies and anti-fracking ranchers, farmers, and residents. A similar fight is going down in Santa Barbara County, where oil companies have funneled $7.6 million into a campaign against Measure P, a citizen’s ballot initiative that would ban future high-intensity petroleum operations on unincorporated county land.

California's a big place, but wow that's a lot of money to spend in two counties. If you're not an oil company, I guess. Chevron, for instance, made close to $5 billion in the second quarter. 

Here's a pic from the Morris Ranch in San Benito county. 


Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

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