Farmers from all over California, including the Central Valley and coastal areas, showed up at Governor Jerry Brown’s office Wednesday with a petition calling for a moratorium on fracking. The same day a similar petition with the signatures of chefs, restaurant owners, winemakers, and brewers from throughout California was also delivered to the governor.
Anti-fracking momentum continues to grow. Earlier today, the L.A. City Council passed a motion that will use zoning codes to effectively ban fracking after the city writes a legal ordinance.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a technique to extract oil from otherwise inaccessible deposits by forcing water, mixed with other chemicals and acids, into the ground to break up, or fracture, rocks holding the oil and allow it to flow more freely. There have been charges that the extraction method causes earthquakes, poisons groundwater, and wastes water, yet the practice continues.
California has long been an oil-producing state, and oil wells are so ubiquitous in certain regions that we no longer notice them. Countless small oil wells, many in active production, are interspersed in all kinds of surprising places within L.A. The Central Valley also is a major oil producing region, and the Monterey Shale, an underground deposit in the Central Valley, has been gaining attention because it is a huge potential source of oil, made more accessible due to the invention of fracking. But it sits under long-established communities and farms that grow food crops for the entire country, and concerns that fracking endangers that supply are growing.
Current law requires the California Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) to approve and supervise any oil drilling operations in the state. Last year the legislature passed S.B. 4, which created the state’s first regulations on fracking. It requires DOGGR to conduct a study on the hazards and risks from the fracking process.
The law was initially supported by some environmental groups. The assembly’s legislative analysis points out that S.B. 4 includes all the key elements recommended by a National Resources Defense Council paper on regulations on fracking, and then some. These elements include prior notification of fracking activities to local residents, disclosure of the amount of water used, what chemicals are used, a description of a well’s geologic context, and a waste storage and disposal plan.
We did support S.B.4 last session and and I still think that bill did some good things,” said a senior attorney with the NRDC, Damon Nagami. “But we never thought that S.B. 4 alone was adequate to protect the environment. It was a good start, and Senator Pavely’s efforts were needed. But at the very end there were some changes made to the bill that were problematic and we had to withdraw our support.” Read more…