Fracking bans. It’s not the first time these words have reverberated across the oil and gas industry. It’s two tiny words that could mean that men and women are out of jobs, and oil and gas stays in the ground, since many reserves just can’t be reached through conventional drilling.
In the United States, Vermont banned fracking in 2012, the first state to do so. In a highly controversial fracking ban, New York, too, outlawed the practice after a seven year study that began in 2009. Areas bordering Pennsylvania saw the prosperity that ensued, and there were even threats of secession from New York. Yet none of the drama played out, and the ban is still in place.
In Maryland, a moratorium on fracking was enacted in 2015, and it is in place until 2017, just around the corner. The bill became law without Gov. Larry Hogan’s signature.
In 2015, fracking bans were all over Texas news as Denton’s ban prompted arguments over which entities have the power to legislate the practice. Gov. Greg Abbott signed HB 40 that limited local authority to restrict fracking. So even though the local ban stayed in effect, the state law overruled it, and fracking in Denton resumed, despite the bitter fight that didn’t stop when Abbott stepped in.
Similar situations have occurred across other states, such as Longmont and other areas of Colorado earlier this year, and it’s unlikely that other attempts to ban hydraulic fracturing will stop anytime soon. Public awareness of the practice through campaigns by environmentalist groups has definitely fanned the flames of opposition.
Which brings us to the latest on fracking bans. The Wall Street Journal reported today that “All Eyes are on Monterey.” Monterey County is smack dab in the middle of California oil and gas country, and the WSJ says a Nov. 8 ballot measure there will test whether fracking bans can win “where it matters most—in places oil and natural gas are produced. Will the measure follow the Texas route? There, the industry proved strong enough to fight back against local protesters who fought a bitter fight against what they deemed “Big Oil” and power-hungry CEOs who care more about money than health.
In Monterey, the fight is similar to Denton and Longmont. The Monterey County for Energy Independence has outspent backers of the measure 30 to 1, according to the WSJ, who states spending against the bill has hit nearly $5.5 million from backers like Chevron, Exxon, and Shell. Big names in the industry who stand to lose more than that if they are forced to cease fracking operations.
The Monterey ban has citizens divided, with activists on both sides of the issue heavily debating whether the practice of hydraulic fracturing should continue. Those in opposition cite dangers to farming operations, groundwater contamination, and general pollution. The WSJ noted a March Gallup poll found 51 percent of Americans opposed fracking, up 11 points from a survey a year ago.
So for now, all industry eyes are indeed on Monterey. Will the ban set a precedent for other oil and gas producing areas? If so, then what comes next in industry hydraulic fracturing practices?