Los Angeles Demands Protections from Fracking

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The City of Los Angeles spoke out loudly this week in support of currently pending state Senate Bill 4  (Pavley).  The Los Angeles City Council found that oil and gas companies engaged in fracking have enjoyed broad exemptions from environmental and public health laws, putting the local community in danger.  The Council then  unanimously voted to adopt City Council member Bernard Parks’ resolution to support SB 4 (Pavley) if amended.  The resolution recognized that the bill would strengthen regulations for communities by requiring a complete scientific study on the impacts of fracking as well as public notices, permits, and disclosure of the chemicals used during the fracking operation. Among other additions, the City Council called for further disclosure of chemicals, a study of seismic impacts, and full CEQA review.

In supporting SB 4, the City joins Los Angeles County, which came out in support of the bill back in April.  Of course L.A. wants state protection.  Los Angeles County is home to the Inglewood Oil Field—the country’s largest urban oil field—and there are approximately 3,700 active oil wells in the county, some of which we know have already been fracked.  Exactly how many wells in L.A. are being fracked and with what chemicals or consequences to public health and our drinking water is not known because the state of California does not currently regulate fracking.  Nor does the state regulate acidizing, which is the use of extremely toxic hydrofluoric acid and other corrosive acids to dissolve rock and release oil.

To not act now would be irresponsible.  California is facing a looming extraction frenzy.  That’s why we join the city and county in supporting SB-4, which provides a good start. And it’s why we’re calling on Governor Brown to put a statewide moratorium on fracking in place, to give the state time to fully evaluate the risks of fracking and determine what else needs to be done to safeguard California’s drinking water, public health and the environment (see this blog from NRDC’s Damon Nagami for more on why that’s needed here).

Speculators estimate that California’s Monterey Shale Formation may contain more than 15 billion barrels of oil.  Oil and gas companies are hungry to cash in on that oil boom, ravaging the California landscape the way NRDC President Frances Beinecke writes that they have done in North Dakota.  But when the boom goes bust, when the acid and frack fluids leak into groundwater—without any disclosure requirements, baseline testing, or monitoring—it will be local governments and communities that are left to pay the price and deal with the consequences to public health.

SB 4 would require permits for fracking, acidizing, and other oil well stimulation practices. It would require notification of when and where fracking is taking place, public disclosure of all chemicals used, groundwater and air quality monitoring, and an independent scientific study. And, SB 4 would provide California’s cities and counties with state protections from the risks of fracking; thus far, they have been left on their own to secure any safeguards.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) added her support for SB 4 on Wednesday in a statement that urged the legislature to pass the bill and the Governor to sign it.  "Unless the potential dangers of fracking are addressed," Feinstein cautions, "we face the possibility of catastrophic consequences to the state's environment and precious groundwater."

We are glad to know that at least three Los Angeles City Council members agree: last year, Council Members Paul Koretz, Herb Wesson and Bernard Parks introduced a resolution urging the Governor and state regulators to impose a moratorium on fracking until the state determines that the practice is “safe for public health, for the Los Angeles water supply and for the environment.”And now earlier this week, Council Members Koretz and Mike Bonin went even further and introduced a motion calling for a citywide moratorium on fracking.  The Council Members asked their colleagues to support a halt on fracking, acidizing, and gravel packing in L.A. until various conditions are met—including the implementation of state and federal legislation to protect Angelenos against the risks of these highly controversial well stimulation activities. 

The City Council members’ motion explained that a pause on fracking was needed to ensure protection of L.A.’s water supply, to determine whether fracking would undermine the state’s efforts to address the climate crisis, and to better understand and guard against the serious threat of induced earthquakes.  The motion referenced recent studies that have found a link between fracking waste disposal and seismic activity.  One study recorded at least 98 earthquakes near Youngstown, Ohio and another recorded a magnitude 5.7 earthquake in Oklahoma triggered by the injection of fracking wastewater deep underground.

We commend the Los Angeles City Council for speaking out to protect communities from the impacts of fracking. You can help, too, by telling your legislators to vote for SB 4 and telling the Governor to impose a fracking moratorium now.


Photo credit: NRDC