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June 14, 2021

Rivas shows support for fracking ban at Dem convention

Supervisor Robert Rivas came out over the weekend in support of a new fracking ban initiative to be placed on the November ballot.
The initiative, presented to the county Feb. 27, was submitted by local anti-fracking group, San Benito Rising, and was endorsed by local residents such as Tony Boch, a member of the San Juan Bautista council.
Rivas made his views clear on the matter as well.
“The reason I am endorsing this initiative is that at this time – I absolutely do not support fracking,” Rivas said in a phone interview Tuesday.
Fracking, which is a high-intensity method of extracting natural gas from shale formations underground, has long been a subject of debate in the county after the board of supervisors approved a new set of rules relating to oil exploration in the Aromas area last May. In April of last year, a federal judge had stopped the practice of fracking on Bureau of Land Management lands until the BLM weighed the risks of potential fracking. In August, the BLM called in a third party to study the effects of oil and gas development in the county.
Rivas said there were several reasons he supported the initiative.
“The scientific studies have not declared that fracking has not and will not cause everlasting damage to our soil,” he said. “The chemicals used within the fracking process may possess … health risks.”
He said many of the chemicals used during the fracking process use “carcinogens” that can cause sensory and neurological damage in people who drink groundwater, which he said would be affected by fracking.
Also, because of the state’s declaration of a drought emergency in the county, he could hardly support fracking in the midst of a major drought, he said.
“Fracking requires large amounts of water,” he said. “We’re in dire need of our water.”
Mary Hsia-Coron, a member of San Benito Rising who submitted the initiative, said water and groundwater contamination was one of the reasons the group wants the initiative on the ballot.
“We’re trying to protect groundwater,” she said in a phone interview Tuesday.
She said the group is “very pleased” with Rivas’ endorsement of the initiative.
“We want to do something that would not endanger our county,” she said.
She added that the group is not just about banning fracking and its members want to “strike the right balance.”
“We’re not banning all oil and gas drilling,” she said. “They (the lawyers who drafted the initiative) were careful at maintaining traditional oil drilling.”
She said a “white paper,” or policy position, drafted by lawyers for the Center for Biological Diversity concluded that a local law ordinance banning fracking was legal and would be approved by a court if challenged in a lawsuit – because of the broad language related to fracking regulation in state law.
Rivas said he opposed the initiative because it is his duty as a supervisor to do what is right for the county.
“Quite frankly, we live in a democracy, not an oligarchy,” he said. “I’m not going to allow a few greedy landowners to thwart the will of the majority.”

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