Coalition to Protect SLO County | Courtesy Photo

After two months and thousands of clocked volunteer hours, Coalition to Protect San Luis Obispo County has all but guaranteed the “Protect Our Water, Air, and Land: Ban Fracking and Oil Expansion in SLO County Initiative” a place on the ballot for the November election.

An estimated 14,000 signatures from county residents now support this citizens’ initiative to prevent new oil and gas extraction in all unincorporated lands of San Luis Obispo County. This would remove rural areas such as Nipomo, Oceano, Los Osos, Templeton and Santa Margarita from potential new oil and gas well drilling or ban fracking, permanently.

“We are so blessed,” volunteer Doug Timewell said. “We have over 300 volunteers collecting signatures, which is just extraordinary.”

The initiative was founded in August 2017 after the owner of the Arroyo Grande Oil Fields requested an aquifer exemption from the California’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources. The exemption would allow increased wastewater injections into the Arroyo Grande aquifer. If made law, the coalition’s initiative would prohibit this expansion but would not hinder the fields’ existing operations.

“Our campaign is really going to be about education,” the coalition’s co-founder Charles Varni said. “We have our folks that are going to support us no matter what. We have folks that are going to be against us no matter what. And then we have this group in the middle saying, ‘Give me more information.’”

Volunteers with the coalition had until April 30 to collect and substantiate petition signatures. Records were turned in to the Office of the County Clerk-Recorder May 1. The city then has 30 days to verify that the coalition met the minimum 8,580 valid signatures to secure a spot on the ballot.

The City of San Luis Obispo has announced plans to pursue new sources of renewable energy. Varni said this initiative falls in line with that prioritization.    

“The entire world’s future, if there is to be a future, is in renewable energy,” San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon said. “We need to do everything we can to keep whatever fossil fuels remain in the ground, as we transition to a clean energy future.”

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