Butte County, California has become the fourth county in that state to ban the controversial method of harvesting natural gas known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking.

Big margin

The prohibition was approved by 71 percent of the voters. A similar ordinance failed to pass the Board of Supervisors in February of 2015.

San Benito, Santa Cruz and Mendocino counties have also passed fracking bans, as have the cities of Beverly Hills and Carson.

“We are thrilled that Butte County voters decided to protect our clean water and almond and walnut farms from fracking,” said Dave Garcia, of Frack-Free Butte County. “We’re proud that we can hand down a community that’s green and pristine to our children and grandchildren.”

Groundwater safety an issue

Residents were concerned that county’s 200 abandoned gas wells were ripe for fracking since the practice is occurring in neighboring Glenn, Colusa and Sutter Counties. Opponents have charged that the toxic chemicals used in fracking, which include benzene, toluene and other carcinogens, could make groundwater unsafe for drinking and irrigation. Additionally, the technique uses enormous amounts of water – a precious resource in drought-ridden California.

Ella Teevan of Food & Water Watch predicted that the Butte County action will inspire other counties and cities to follow suit.

"When our Governor and local elected officials fail to act, voters are taking the initiative at the ballot box to protect their health and their water from fracking.”

Alameda County’s Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on a fracking ban sometime this summer; Monterey County voters will tackle the issue on the ballot November 7th.