Green Billionaire: Require 2/3 Vote Before Fracking

Tom Steyer wants voters put in charge of oil extraction

Billionaire Tom Steyer is calling for legislation in California that would require a two-thirds vote of any county's electorate to approve the oil extraction process known as fracking from moving forward.

Steyer's remarks came two hours after California Governor Jerry Brown "drew protests from environmental activists over his permissiveness on hydraulic fracturing."

"In California, it takes a two-thirds vote by the Legislature to impose taxes, and in local communities it requires a two-thirds vote to impose taxes," Steyer told delegates at the California Democratic Party's annual convention. "The business community has argued for years that this two-thirds vote is important to make sure they are not taken advantage of. Well, that exact same logic should apply when it comes to fracking."

Steyer has refrained from criticizing Brown on his environmental policies, despite their differences. Asked after his speech if his remarks were a challenge to the Democratic governor, Steyer said, "No, we didn't write this speech in the two hours in between then and now."

Steyer recently announced plans to raise $100 million in an effort to make climate change and other green energy policies a top issue in the 2014 election cycle. Steyer, founder of Farallon Capital, one of the country's most successful investment firms, has said he would position himself as the left's answer to the Koch brothers in terms of political involvement and advocacy. And while he has been criticized as a hypocrite over the fact that much of his wealth is due in part to investments in fossil fuel companies, it hasn't stopped him from pouring resources into political campaigns, including the Massachusetts Senate and Virginia Governor's race. 

Steyer has been especially active in California politics, helping either fund or defeat ballot initiatives that would impact California's incentive structure for green energy technology. Steyer stands to benefit personally as well as an investor in a green energy focused Venture Capital firm which would be hurt by eased restrictions on oil extraction.