Hermosa Beach Voters Defeat Measure to Overturn Oil Drilling Ban

By Dan Bacher | March 8, 2015 | Fracking opponents scored a big victory against the oil industry by defeating a measure to overtur...

By Dan Bacher | March 8, 2015 |

Fracking opponents scored a big victory against the oil industry by defeating a measure to overturn an oil drilling ban in Hermosa Beach, but failed to pass an initiative to prohibit new oil and gas development in La Habra Heights. 

Hermosa Beach is a coastal city of almost 20,000 people south of Los Angeles, while La Habra Heights is a rural community of about 5,500 on the southeastern edge of Los Angeles County. 

"Amid growing concern with the state government’s inability to police the oil industry, Hermosa Beach overwhelming voted to limit oil development as cities and counties throughout the state launch efforts to ban dangerous oil extraction in their communities," according to a statement from Californians Against Fracking, a coalition of about 200 environmental business, health, agriculture, labor, political and environmental justice organizations working to win a statewide ban on fracking and other dangerous extraction techniques in California.

Seventy-eight percent of Hermosa Beach voters defeated Measure O, which would have overturned a longtime ban on oil drilling. The measure’s defeat prevents the seaside city from approving the E&B Natural Resource Management Corporation’s proposed 34-well oil and gas drilling/production project at the City’s 555 Sixth Street maintenance yard. 

The measure was defeated 3,799 to 1,016, according to unofficial returns on the City of Hermosa Beach's website. 

In La Habra Heights, voters did not approve an initiative, Measure A, that would have prohibited land use for new oil and gas development in the city, including high intensity extraction methods such as fracking. However, residents of the rural community remain committed to stopping extreme oil extraction. 

In the past four months, the oil lobby spent $400,000 to defeat Measure A, compared to just $26,000 spent by supporters, reported Californians Against Fracking. In Hermosa Beach, oil industry-funded backers poured at least $1.97 million into the campaign supporting Measure O, spending more than 30 times as much as those who opposed the measure. 

“Despite the oil industry’s aggressive efforts, the people of Hermosa Beach voted to protect their communities, their air, their water and their health from further exposure to the risks of dangerous oil drilling,” said Adam Scow of Californians Against Fracking and California Director of Food & Water Watch. “The victory is yet another example of how Californians are standing up in growing numbers to protect their homes, schools and our state’s vulnerable water supplies." 

"Residents in La Habra Heights are not giving up the fight to protect their families. As more and more local communities launch efforts to rein in the oil industry, Gov. Brown should heed the calls for statewide action," Scow concluded. 

The vote attracted the attention of the New York Times, which reported, "Voters of Hermosa Beach, a small community on the Pacific Ocean south of here, ended a highly contentious campaign Tuesday with an overwhelming vote to deny permission for the construction of up to 34 oil wells on a 1.3 acre municipal parking lot in the center of town." 

The City of Beverly Hills and three California counties -- San Benito, Santa Cruz and Mendocino -- last year banned fracking and other unconventional extraction methods. 

The oil industry is the most powerful corporate lobby in Sacramento - and it has dramatically increased its spending in recent years as it faces growing opposition to the expansion of fracking and other extreme oil extraction methods in California. The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) spent $8.9 million on lobbying state officials in 2014, nearly double what it spent in the previous year. WSPA spent $4.67 million in 2013. 

From 2005 to 2014, the oil industry spent an astounding $266 million influencing the Governor, the Legislature and other California officials, according to Stop Fooling California. 

For an in-depth investigation of oil industry spending and influence in California, please read my article in the East Bay Express. 

Two days after 8,000 protesters marched through the streets of Oakland in the largest anti-fracking protest in U.S. history, documents released by state regulators revealed that thousands of oil and gas wells and hundreds of illegally operating oil industry waste-disposal wells are injecting fluids into aquifers in violation of state law and the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. A photo essay about the historical march is here

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