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San Benito County Divided Over Fracking Measure On November Ballot

HOLLISTER (KPIX 5) -- Voters in San Benito County will become the first in California to decide on a measure about fracking in November. Measure J would ban the practice, and that vote has a county divided.

Vegetable rancher Richard Bianchi is a life-long resident of San Benito County, and a strong "no" vote on the proposed fracking ban. "I live here, I farm here, I raise my family here. Why would I want to do something that I think would cause harm to 1) my livelihood, 2) my family or 3) my future?" Bianchi said.

Just a few miles away, cattle rancher Joe Morris wants his neighbors to vote "yes."

"We don't need oil. We may want some, but we don't need it. We need water. We can't live without water," he said.

The campaign signs tell the same story. Neighbors are deeply divided over the future of oil production here.

The yes campaign is promising to protect the land and water. "We think we've got a lot to risk here - and we don't think it's worth the gamble," Andy Hsia-Coron of the yes campaign.

Opponents of the measure are promising to protect property rights. John Eade, a cattle rancher who opposes Measure J said, "The biggest players in this whole campaign are the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity. They're the same people who shut our water off."

Now, more than ever, water is very complicated business here. So is the science of hydraulic fracturing, the often confusing matter of mineral rights, and who can drill for what and where. All of that, wrapped up in one single vote.

For the moment, there is virtually no fracking underway in San Benito County. Supporters of the ban said they want to stop it, before it starts.

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