Butte County Anti-Fracking Group Awaits Court Decision

Jul 16, 2014 3:25 PM by Scott Howard

A group of citizens who want to ban an oil and natural gas extraction method known as hydraulic fracturing in Butte County will likely find out next week whether they can take their case to voters in November.

Butte County Superior Court Judge Robert Glusman Tuesday set hearing date for next Wednesday. Supporters of Frack-Free Butte County had hoped to get a ruling on Tuesday. But Glusman said he just received the case, which comprises of documentation now an inch think.

"i'm not about to shoot from the hip on this," Glusman said during the late afternoon court proceeding.

Hydraulic fracturing is a procedure that can increase the flow of oil or gas from a well. It is done by pumping liquids down a well into subsurface rock under pressures that are high enough to fracture the rock.

At issue is whether a proposed county initiative can go forward and be approved for the November ballot even though the petitions used to get the need signatures has been nullified because of so-called facial defects, such as some words not being in bold print. These defects were brought to light by an outside law firm, which has clients in the energy industry. That firm is also representing a Gridley land owner, who claims such a ban would harm his rights to drill for oil and gas on his property.

And as it stands now, the Butte County Clerk- Recorder's Office has no choice but to nullify the petitions and the measure will only make the ballot unless the court grants a waiver.

Joni Stellar, a local resident leading the charge to get the courts to allow the petition, is hoping the court sees that the so-called defects are not significant enough to stop the initiative process. Stellar added that their group could make the needed corrections if there was enough time, but there isn't.

"There's no way we could get that many signatures in such a short period of time," Stellar said, standing out side the county courthouse in Chico having just stood before the judge without a lawyer minutes ago.

The clock is running. County officials say they need the petitions ready for Butte County Supervisor's approval by July 29 for the measure to be placed on the November ballot.

In a separate but related matter, Judge Glusman also agreed that the Gridley property owner had a legal standing in the case. Scott's attorney, Sean Welch, told the judge his client has already drilled for natural gas on his property in the past and has new plans on drilling on his property.

Meanwhile, the County Board of Supervisors has already taken a first vote on banning fracking in Butte County. But a second and final vote is on hold until this ballot measure questions is answered.

If approved, Butte County would be the first county in California to take such a stance against hydraulic fracturing.


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