VIDEOS: How Fracking is Affecting Real Californians' Lives

Fracking and other risky oil extraction techniques are a hot topic around the state, as the industry pushes for expansion from NorCal to SoCal. As more and more Californians express concern over these heavy industrial processes moving into their communities, many of our neighbors are already living with the impacts—and their stories shed light on the kinds of threats we all need protection against.

We’ve been saying for a while now that California needs a time-out on fracking to allow the state to study the risks and how to protect against them. But don’t just take our word for it—listen to your neighbors. NRDC has created a new trio of new narrated slideshows that will help you do just that.

These three short vignettes provide a snapshot of the wide range of impacts California residents are experiencing from fracking and other risky extraction techniques—from health concerns in South Los Angeles as the city mulls a fracking moratorium, to the strain on a rancher’s water supply in the midst of a severe drought, and the way it can disrupt everyday life to the point of driving people from their homes.

These deeply personal stories—which will likely sound very familiar to other fracking communities around the country—come in the wake of the state legislature’s inability to pass a fracking moratorium earlier this spring, leaving communities across the state (like much of the U.S.) more dependent than ever on local initiatives that would ban, restrict or offer added protections against fracking. Indeed, local efforts are underway in each of these three regions where communities are fighting to take matters into their own hands while state and federal leaders continue to let them down.

Here’s an overview of the three slideshows:

  • Health Concerns in South Los Angeles: “Fighting for Air” – Nalleli Cobo, now 13, lives in an apartment directly across the street from the AllenCo Energy oil well site, with four generations of women in her family. Since 2010, the same year AllenCo bought the wells, Nalleli reportedly has developed heart problems, nose bleeds, headaches, stomach pain and loss of smell. Her mother and grandmother report they recently became asthmatic, and many others in the community have complained of similar health problems. With limited economic means, the family can’t afford to simply move away—so their focus is on shutting down the wells. Fortunately, a temporary shutdown is now in place, and the family is fighting to make it permanent (Nalleli’s mother, Monic Uriarte, has been leading a community effort to push for that). Meanwhile, the L.A. City Council recently passed a motion to draft an ordinance zoning fracking and other harmful extraction methods out of city limits—a move that would help prevent other L.A. families from facing similar impacts to Nalleli’s. That ordinance is due out sometime in the near future and the Council will then vote on it. Watch the video here
  • Water Woes in Drought-Stricken Rural San Benito County: “Water Goes, We Go” – Joe and Kathy Spencer run a 100+-year-old ranch in southern San Benito County. A single oil company owns mineral rights beneath much of the ranch land in the area, so it can come on anyone’s property and drill whether the residents like it or not. Citadel Exploration, Inc. is planning to drill 15 test wells on its neighbor’s land, and Kathy and Joe are worried about the impacts this will have on their already scarce water supply. Fortunately, in July a judge ruled that the project violated California environmental law and might require too much water—but whether or not the ruling sticks could have a big impact on the Spencers’ lives. After all, with less than an inch of rain in the last year, just bathing and doing laundry is a luxury. It could be disastrous if oil companies drain their aquifers and make their property worthless. As Joe says, “You can’t raise cattle without water. You can’t live there without water.” San Benito County has a countywide measure that would ban fracking and other high-intensity petroleum operations on the ballot for November, and the Board of Supervisors in neighboring Monterey County is considering a fracking moratorium ordinance sometime this fall. What happens in each of these counties will be a bellwether for similar measures pending across the region. Watch the video here:
  • Driven Out of a Family House in Kern County: “A Home Surrendered” – Walt and Marilee Desatoff were driven out of their family home in Shafter, which had once belonged to Marilee’s grandmother, after Vintage Petroleum moved into the neighborhood. The company transformed the rose field across the street into an industrial waste land of wells and wastewater pits, and spilled oil onto the street outside their house. The noise from flaring made it impossible for them to sleep, and they worried about the impact to their already dirty air. They couldn’t believe the company isn’t required to disclose the chemicals being used near their drinking water supply, and they fear the impact contaminated water could have on crops in such a big agriculture region. Marilee says she never wanted to leave because “to leave the house was to leave the family,” but it got to a point where they couldn’t deal with the pain anymore. Kern County is home to about 80 percent of the state’s oil drilling and more than 95 percent of the fracking, and a stark reminder of how the industrial process can change residents’ way of life. Local pushes for a ban or moratorium are in their early stages at the moment, and a countywide environmental impact review is currently underway that could result in increased safeguards against fracking for communities. The outcome of the Kern County environmental impact review process may be an indicator of how the state’s parallel review process could look. Watch the video here:

    With fracking already legal and happening in California, we can expect more of the same if our state leaders don’t step in and stand up to protect us by putting an immediate moratorium in place.

    About the Authors

    Damon Nagami

    Senior Attorney and Director, Southern California Ecosystems Project

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