Students Against Fracking will celebrate a recent initiative placed on the November ballot to ban fracking in Santa Barbara County in an event called “An Afternoon Against Fracking” this Saturday at noon on Campus Point.

As part of the event, CALPIRG fracking coordinator Robert Holland will speak about the negative effects of fracking, a mining process that mixes toxic chemicals with water in order to aid natural gas collection. Various environmental groups who will speak at the event, such as Santa Barbara Water Guardians, CALPIRG and Environmental Affairs Board, were major players in getting the initiative on the ballot, helping collect around 20,000 signatures in three weeks to get the ballot question approved. If the measure passes, Santa Barbara will be one of the first counties in the nation to ban fracking.

According to CALPIRG campus organizer Kat Lockwood, the on-campus branch of the organization gathered 1,000 of the 3,000 total campus signatures. Lockwood said the organization is part of the main campus coalition against fracking, along with EAB, System Change Not Climate Change and sociology professor John Foran’s activism class. Lockwood also said the remainder of the signatures were gathered off-campus in Santa Barbara, partly by CALPIRG’s off-campus division.

According to Kai Wilmsen, EAB co-chair and second-year biology major, the challenge now is to educate enough people on fracking to ensure that the initiative passes this fall. He said the number of fracking wells are growing in other California cities, such as Santa Maria and Los Angeles, and need to be stopped.

“If we want this initiative to pass it will be imperative to reach out to the student body and educate them about the numerous risks presented by these techniques,” Wilmsen said in an email.

Lockwood said CALPIRG has been leading community conversations about fracking for the past year and will continue to do so to educate the public on its negative environmental effects.

“If we allow oil companies to frack in California we are facing an environmental nightmare – millions of gallons of water that we don’t have will be wasted, not to mention we’ll destroy our beautiful places and contribute more to our global warming problem,” Lockwood said in an email. “This is especially a problem in Santa Barbara, where oil companies are already fracking at the rigs off of the coast.”

According to Holland, CALPIRG will be working with community members throughout summer and will urge students to register to vote in the early weeks of the next academic year. Holland said statewide support for fracking has flipped to opposition recently due to an increasing awareness of fracking’s contamination of air and water and its propensity for higher risk of oil- and chemical-spills.

Holland said if passed, the initiative has the potential to be a leader in a statewide anti-fracking movement, as “moratoriums and bans” have already been passed in Santa Cruz, Butte and Los Angeles counties.

“Santa Barbara would add to the momentum,” Holland said in an email. “If we can get enough pressure on Governor Brown, I think the state will follow Santa Barbara’s lead. California is an environmental leader, so I think it will take some time for the country to follow.”


This story is a Daily Nexus online exclusive.