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Oil Company Drops Fracking Ban Lawsuit

April 7th, 2015

A Southern California oil company has dropped its lawsuit seeking to overturn a local fracking ban. Citadel Exploration, an oil drilling firm based in Newport Beach, sought to have San Benito County’s fracking ban overruled. The company filed the lawsuit on February 27, calling the ban “an illegal local statutory scheme”, despite the fact that the measure passed by nearly 60 percent of the vote last November. This week, attorneys with the company filed a one-page motion to dismiss the suit.

How Fracking Works

The controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, better known as “fracking”, has spurred many communities to consider fracking bans. The fracking process involves injecting a mixture of water, sand, abrasives and chemicals into underground oil and natural gas deposits. The high-pressure fluids break up the rock surrounding the deposits. When the surrounding rock is dissolved or loosened, drillers can reach resources that were inaccessible by conventional drilling methods.

Environmental Groups Praise Fracking Bans

Citadel’s move to back down from the fracking ban lawsuit has won the praise of the state’s environmental lobbyists. Hollin Kretzmann, an attorney for the environmental activist group Center for Biological Diversity, hailed the decision as evidence of “the oil industry’s empty threats” against fracking bans. Kretzmann also told local reporters that the move may make other oil companies think twice about “frivolous lawsuits.” Other communities across the state may also be encouraged to enact fracking bans to “protect their water, air and health.”

Local Communities Debate Fracking Bans

Other nearby communities have considered fracking bans, either as legislative actions or as referendums. Voters in Mendocino County passed a fracking ban ballot measure in November. The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors approved a fracking ban in their community. However, not all counties in the area agree on the issue. Voters in the Los Angeles suburb of La Habra Heights voted down a fracking ban by a 57-43 margin. The Monterrey County Board of Supervisors also voted against a fracking ban.

Money, Politics and Fracking Bans

One of the most telling elements behind the votes on fracking bans has been the relationship between the oil industry and the state’s political power structure. In the weeks preceding the vote on the San Benito County fracking ban, a group funded by the state’s major oil companies spent more than $2 million in advertising to oppose its passage. The same group also spent $5 million in Santa Barbara County, which voted down a fracking ban in November. Other counties are expected to vote on similar measures this fall, so the cycle may continue for the foreseeable future.

Source: San Jose Mercury News

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