MESSING WITH TEXAS: The town where some say fracking began banned it last week. And all hell broke loose.
Lawsuits flew after Denton, a community of 123,000 all fracked out with 270 wells, voted by a 59 percent margin to outlaw the injection practice, despite being outspent 10-1 by the oil and gas boys.
You’ve probably never heard of the west Texas town of Denton, but it sits atop the same Barnett Shale formation into which oil baron George Mitchell, known as “the father of fracking,” drilled the first such successful fracked well in 1981 after 15 years of failure.
“He fracked until it paid off,” the New York Times headlined his bio.
The lawsuits say, in effect, that it’s illegal to ban fracking in Texas. You can do a lot of things in Texas, even things that might be illegal elsewhere, but you can’t mess with the oil and gas industry.
Fracking bans may be illegal in California, too. You may not be aware of it, since odds are that you didn’t vote last week (someone else did it for you), but although the fracking ban failed in Santa Barbara, it passed in two other California counties.
San Benito and Mendocino county residents voted to ban this and other controversial methods of extracting oil from the depths, and both face lawsuits. But neither county was hit with a Big Oil media avalanche of over $6 million the way Santa Barbara was.
Little Santa Barbara County was about to destroy the entire U.S. economy, or so you might think by watching the ads or listening to the pleading commercials.
BALLOT BOXERS: Let me mention a few quasi-oddities that transpired last week after only 43 percent of your fellow Santa Barbara County voters trudged to a polling place. And about 15 percent mailed in their ballots to save the absolute bother of actually going in person. Hey, we’re all busy people, right?
You’re not some politico geek playing inside baseball and crunching numbers to figuring out who to vote for to get a big job, nice office, a team of assistants to do all the work, keep the creepy constituents off his or her back, and ensure a fat retirement check.
Or maybe you plain forgot about the election, you being so busy and all, and when it dawned on you, it was way too late to figure out who to vote for and go to all the trouble analyzing those mystery propositions that say one thing and mean another.
But before you start feeling guilty or anything about not voting, let’s look at the facts. In Ventura County, our wonderful neighbors somewhere to the east way out somewhere past the Rincon, only 35 percent of registered voters marked ballots. And in Los Angeles, just 23 percent bothered, but what do you expect, right?
I expected more in Sacramento, the state capital with all those state employees sucking at the budgetary tit, but the turnout was a miserable 29 percent. I mean, this is a company town, so you’d think its people would want to keep the company alive and well. Maybe they were too busy, slaving away for the taxpayers.
(Besides, what’s the state capital doing in that boring, out-of-the-way town that no one would want to visit otherwise? And why are state elective offices like treasurer, controller, and secretary of state on the ballot? These are basically administrative jobs. Why politicize them?)
Good, gracious, hard-working Representative Lois Capps survived a run at her seat by Republican Chris Mitchum, who had little going for him but his name and hopes of a surge that swept other Republicans into office around the country. He was also on the wrong side of too many issues dear to Santa Barbara hearts, like climate change.
The question now is whether Capps will seek another term in 2016, a presidential year, or want to yield the seat to one of two Santa Barbara Democrats who political observers say are eyeing her job: 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal and Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider. On the GOP side, City Councilmember Dale Francisco is also said to be among those waiting in the wings. (Two years goes fast.)
Meanwhile, true-blue Santa Barbara holds fast on the western rim of red flyover country. Why does it sometimes feel like we’re on an island?