Mendocino Passes First Rights-Based Fracking Ban in California

November, 2014

Press Release: On November 4, Mendocino County residents adopted the first-in-the-state Community Bill of Rights law banning fracking by a vote of 67 percent. The initiative was brought forward by residents in partnership with San Francisco-based Global Exchange. 

California’s unending shortage of water and its location—situated above major earthquake faults—make fracking of significant concern to residents. The fracking process requires millions of gallons of water, and fracking and frack wastewater injections wells, used to store the toxic wastewater produced from fracking, have been tied to earthquakes in Ohio and Oklahoma. It has also been linked to the contamination of drinking water. And, while many claim that shale gas is a “cleaner” fuel than coal or oil, studies are finding that fracking is a major global warming polluter.

Mendocino County residents contacted Global Exchange for assistance to ban fracking and protect themselves and local ecosystems. The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) provided support as well, both in the drafting of the Community Bill of Rights citizens’ initiative, and in providing education through CELDF’s Democracy School training held in Mendocino for residents last spring.

The Mendocino County Community Bill of Rights Fracking and Water Use Initiative, on the ballot as Measure S, establishes the rights of the people of Mendocino County to a healthy environment, including clean air and water, and the rights of ecosystems to exist and flourish. The measure also secures the rights of residents to local self-governance. Fracking is banned as a violation of those rights. The extraction or sale of local water for use in fracking anywhere in the state is also banned, along with the dumping of toxic frack waste. Further, the measure bans the transfer of offshore fracking oil or waste through the County.

Global Exchange’s Community Rights Director and organizer for the ballot effort, Shannon Biggs, stated, “It is a huge win. With the passage of Measure S, residents in Mendocino County made history as the first California community to adopt a Community Bill of Rights, placing their rights above corporate interests. Residents see enactment of this ordinance as the first step in asserting their right to local self-government, and a rejection of the idea that their community will be a sacrifice zone for corporate profits. This is just a beginning for the community rights movement in California.”

CELDF’s Ben Price offered congratulations to the people of Mendocino County, and to the organizers of the effort, stating, “With this vote, the people of Mendocino are challenging a legal structure that protects a corporate “right” to frack above the rights of communities to not be fracked.”

Mendocino County joins more than 150 communities across the U.S. that have adopted CELDF-drafted Community Bills of Rights to secure their unalienable rights to clean air and water, the rights of nature to exist and thrive, and the rights of communities to local self-governance. CELDF has assisted these communities to ban shale gas drilling and fracking, factory farming, and water privatization, and eliminate corporate “rights” when they violate community and nature’s rights. This includes assisting the first communities in the U.S. to establish Rights of Nature in law, as well as the first communities to elevate the rights of communities above the “rights” of corporations.



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