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Voters Weigh In on Fracking, Water Measures

Election Day on Tuesday in many parts of the country wasn’t just about having a say on candidates for Congress and local government. Climate, environment and energy issues were prominent on ballots, too, in some states.

Voters in Denton, Texas, banned fracking. Louisiana voters approved money for an artificial coral reef development fund. In Alaska, voters restricted mining in Bristol Bay.

But in North Dakota, a measure to provide millions of dollars in oil and gas tax revenue for conservation projects across the state failed overwhelmingly.

Credit: vote.minneapolismn.gov

Here’s a breakdown of the results of the climate, energy and environment-related measures that appeared on ballots Tuesday:

Fracking Bans

Measures to restrict hydraulic fracturing appeared on ballots in Texas, California and Ohio, with mixed results.

The city of Denton, Texas, became the first city in the Lone Star State to ban fracking, a method energy companies use to extract crude oil and natural gas involving the high pressure injection of millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals deep underground.

Denton is in the middle of the Barnett shale gas boom in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where fracking has been occurring in urban areas.

Just like bans voters passed in Colorado in recent years, the energy industry in generally fracking-friendly Texas is expected to mount a legal challenge to Denton’s ban.

Two of three proposed local fracking bans succeeded in California on Tuesday: one in San Benito County and another in Mendocino County. Voters in Santa Barbara County defeated an anti-fracking measure there.

At least four local anti-fracking measures appeared on ballots in Ohio, where the town of Athens became the fifth Ohio town to ban fracking in the form of a “community bill of rights” in which residents claim the right to clean air, water and a community free of fracking and wastewater injection wells.

Similar measures were defeated Tuesday in the Ohio towns of Gates Mills, Kent and Youngstown.

Water Conservation Initiatives

California voters approved a $7.5 billion water bond, which would pay for numerous drought-related water conservation measures, including new groundwater storage and water recycling and conservation projects.

A water-related $53 million bond measure passed in Rhode Island on Tuesday, helping to pay for flood prevention projects, wastewater treatment plants, protection for Narragansett Bay and other conservation projects.

Other Measures

North Dakota oil and gas companies won’t be paying for conservation projects there after voters rejected a measure requiring 5 percent of the state’s oil and gas taxes to be used for water and wildlife habitat conservation projects.

In the middle of the Bakken shale oil boom, North Dakota conservation groups had hoped the measure would have helped relieve some of the impacts of fracking and fossil fuels extraction spreading rapidly across the state.

Alaskans approved a measure that would restrict mining around Bristol Bay, a salmon-rich bay southwest of Anchorage and the site of the proposed Pebble Mine, where copper, gold and molybdenum would be extracted.

The measure requires legislative approval for mining operations in the region as a way to protect salmon runs and the Bristol Bay watershed.

In Florida, voters approved a measure that would use revenues from a state real estate tax to pay for land purchases aiming to protect beaches, drinking water resources, wetlands, recreation areas, and other environmentally sensitive lands.

A measure in Louisiana was approved Tuesday giving oil and gas companies the ability to use equipment from offshore oil and gas rigs and platforms for the construction of artificial coral reefs. Energy companies will be required to give the state a portion of any savings earned from decommissioning the equipment.

The money will help pay for the artificial reef program there and fisheries habitat improvements.

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