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Varni

Charles Varni is co-chair of the Coalition to Protect San Luis Obispo County. 

Volunteers have begun gathering signatures to place the “Protect Our Water, Air, and Land: Ban Fracking and Oil Expansion in SLO County” initiative on the November 2018 ballot.

The initiative is sponsored by the Coalition to Protect San Luis Obispo County, a group of local volunteers working to protect local water, air and soil from pollution while encouraging a shift toward renewable energy, as called for in the county’s General Plan.

“Today marks another important step forward toward a clean energy future in San Luis Obispo County,” said Charles Varni, co-chair of the Coalition to Protect San Luis Obispo County, who is also a local Surfrider Foundation volunteer and ceramic artist. “SLO County residents and visitors expect clean air, scenic vistas, vibrant agriculture and a safe and sustainable water supply. We must protect these precious resources by stopping the expansion of petroleum extraction and banning risky practices like fracking altogether.”

The initiative would amend the county’s General Plan, Local Coastal Program and County Code to prohibit using land in the county’s unincorporated areas for oil well stimulation treatments like fracking and acidizing. It would also prohibit new oil and gas well drilling land uses on unincorporated county lands. Under the initiative, existing oil and gas land uses would be allowed to continue, but not expand. The initiative also protects vested rights and allows the county to grant limited exceptions to avoid taking private property.

“Our community bears the risks of oil production, while oil company shareholders reap the benefits,” said Natalie Risner, coalition co-chair. “Expanded oil operations would leave us even more vulnerable to the poisoning of our water supply and increased air and soil pollution, not to mention the risk of another oil spill. Now is the time for county voters to prevent risky oil extraction techniques like fracking that would consume even more of our precious water supply. A large expansion will put more trucks full of hazardous chemicals on our roads and increase the risk of local earthquake activity from oil field operations. The trade-off does not pencil out.”

The Coalition to Protect San Luis Obispo County is led by the grassroots volunteers who spearheaded similar efforts in 2012 and 2014, in addition to many other local awareness-raising campaigns aimed at protecting the quality of life on the Central Coast.

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Proponents included a provision in the initiative to prohibit using unincorporated county land for oil well stimulation treatments like fracking and acidizing because the Monterey Shale formation underlies parts of San Luis Obispo County. Oil companies have identified this formation as a likely target for aggressive extraction techniques. Among other risks, fracking requires transportation and storage of hazardous chemicals, generates large amounts of toxic wastewater, and has been tied to increased seismic activity in other parts of the country.

Initiative proponents will need to gather 8,850 valid signatures from registered voters in San Luis Obispo County to qualify the “Protect Our Water, Air, and Land: Ban Fracking and Oil Expansion in SLO County” initiative for the November 2018 ballot.

Learn more and read the initiative at http://protectslocounty.org.

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