Voters in California’s Monterey County passed a ballot initiative Tuesday to ban hydraulic fracturing in the county, a vote which may shut down all oil production in the coastal county after roughly 70 years there.
Voters approved the initiative, known as Measure Z, which will ban the use of fracking and other high-intensity methods of oil and gas extraction, such as acid stimulation, prohibit new oil and gas operations in the county and phase out operational oil and gas wells.
The measure was approved by a vote of 40,332, or 55.8%, to 31,949, or 44.2%. Results of the vote were not fully counted until Wednesday morning.
The approval of the ballot measure Tuesday marked the first time a US county with relatively significant oil production has voted to ban fracking. Monterey County’s San Ardo field has produced, on average, 21,900 b/d of crude this year, about 4.4% of California’s overall 499,000 b/d of onshore production, according to the state’s Department of Conservation.
The measure was expected to be challenged by industry in court.
A group known as Monterey County for Energy Independence spent millions of dollars fighting the measure in the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s election.
The group was funded largely by Chevron and Aera Energy, a venture between Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell.
Earlier this year, environmental groups failed to get two anti-fracking proposals on Colorado’s November ballot — one that would have given local governments new powers to restrict fracking and another which would prohibit new oil and gas facilities within 2,500 feet of homes or other occupied buildings.
Also on the West Coast, voters in the US state of Washington rejected a ballot initiative that would have created America’s first statewide carbon emission tax on the sale or use of fossil fuels and fossil fuel-generated electricity.
The tax would have set an initial rate of $15/mt of emissions by July 2017 and was estimated to increase gasoline prices by 25 cents/gal by that time.
The tax proposal was rejected by a vote of more than 1.09 million, or 59%, to nearly 772,000, or 41%, according to results from the Washington secretary of state’s office.
The carbon tax proposal faced opposition from some unlikely sources, including the state’s Democratic Party, labor organizations and environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, that refused to back it.
After being set at $15/mt in July 2017, the tax, known as the Washington Carbon Emission and Sales Tax Reduction, would would have risen to $25/mt in July 2018 and then by 3.5% plus inflation until the tax reaches $100/mt.
The tax was designed to reduce fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, but also to remain revenue neutral. Coupled with the emissions tax, the plan also would have lowered the state sales tax to 5.5% from 6.5%, boosted a tax credit for low-income families and reduced manufacturing taxes.
The tax would be collected from the first person or company in Washington who sells or burns the oil, coal or other fossil fuel. The state Department of Revenue would have needed to set rules for how to calculate carbon dioxide emissions for each type of fuel and fuel use.
The rejection of the Washington carbon tax proposal Tuesday shows the uphill battle that backers of a carbon tax face in the US. Efforts to set up a federal cap and trade policy failed during the last Democrat-controlled Congress. Speculation about establishing a national carbon tax has existed for years, but such a move is seen as politically untenable.
President Barack Obama last month said “the likelihood of an immediate carbon tax is a ways away.”
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