Tue, Aug

Cracking Down On Fracking … in LA!

THE VIEW FROM HERE-Nationally and locally, many organizations are working diligently to place a moratorium on the practice of fracking—let alone trying to ban it altogether.  We can thankLAANE; the Sierra Club; Food and Water Watch; (DOGGR) the Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (among others) for their concerted efforts toward this end. 


We can also applaud the more recent efforts of LA Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Mike Bonin for their demonstrated commitment toward freeing the City of Los Angeles from the scourge of hydraulic fracturing (fracking), let alone what comes from acidizing (“an oil production technique that involves pouring large amounts of hydrofluoric or hydrochloric acid down wells”—the purpose of which is to unlock shale), and gravel packing (“a process by which the wellbore and [the surrounding space between the rock and the pipe] are  packed with prepared gravel of a specific size designed to prevent the passage of formation sand”which can damage production tools). The primary objective is to stabilize the formation while causing minimal impairment to well productivity.  

On September 4 of last year, these councilmembers co-sponsored a motion (seconded by colleagues  Bob Blumenfield, Bernard Parks, and José Huizar) to rezone Los Angeles so that fracking would not be permitted within its borders.  The measure has been sent to the Planning and Land Use Management Committee (more commonly known as PLUM). 

In the meantime, the Public Safety Committee Chair, Mitch Englander (we look to him as a strong advocate on this issue), and Bonin introduced two measures regarding earthquake preparedness.  This is an issue that will also be considered by the Energy and Environment Committee.   “An NBC News report on September 4, 2013, reveals that wastewater from fracking appears to be linked to … earthquakes.”  Other experts agree that there is a clear link between fracking and earthquake exacerbations.  

You can see that many of the same councilmembers serve on these committees, a situation that presents the members with a vested interest to getting this issue right.  That is why the committees which oversee the Koretz/Bonin measure must work individually and in combination to see that this moratorium affecting the City of Los Angeles gets their approval, leading to a final vote by the full City Council followed by the signature of the Mayor. 

Several months ago, I accompanied a Sierra Club Beyond Coal/Our Generation caravan to Sacramento for Lobby Day.  During this time, several smaller delegations from this group met with a number of State Senators and Assemblymembers on several environmental issues, including Fran Pavley’s SB 4 (Oil and Gas:  Well Stimulation), passage of which the Sierra Club went on record opposing, principally because of the effects of the “Halliburton Hush Clause” (a term the Sierra Club coined). 

In summary, this clause [promoted by Halliburton and ALEC (the very conservative, oil-supporting American Legislative Exchange Council)] prevents the public’s awareness of pertinent details regarding the fracking process (a procedure from which Halliburton greatly profits).  Although the bill does mandate that fracking manufacturers reveal what chemical fluids are being utilized, it does not require revelation of quantities and concentrations—information  which medical practitioners must know in order to treat patients who have been adversely affected by exposure to these chemicals.  

Nevertheless, the bill was passed into law without the transparency necessary for the public’s right to know. 

It is true that no law is perfect (despite its good intentions).  This bill did pass and became law under Governor Brown’s signature—unfortunately the final version includes the ill-advised clause referenced above.  My impression is that many of the “progressive” legislators voted in support with the thinking that a bill that would curb fracking (though imperfect) is better than no bill at all.  What was and is still needed is adherence to a new “profiles in courage,” by which our representatives place a higher premium on casting their votes for what is better for their constituents rather than on building a record that will make them more easily re-elected! 

Last Monday afternoon a sizeable number of enthusiastic participants attended a rally at Cal State, Long Beach (other demonstrations occurred simultaneously throughout the State).  Its purpose:  to object to Governor Brown’s signing of SB 4 into law, a piece of legislation that will remain in effect until 2015—a law to which most Californians vehemently object (as the demonstrations clearly show).  The group will soon be sending the governor a quarter million signed petitions asking that he impose an immediate moratorium on all forms of fracking throughout the state.  If necessary, follow-up legislation asking for an outright ban will be introduced.  Obviously, his action will have a significant impact on the imminent decision that the Los Angeles City Council will make on this matter. 

Without question, there is a litany of adverse effects that come from fracking:  Degradation of potable water (along with taxpayer liability for cleaning up any contamination of the environment that results from the fracking practice) is one of them.  There is concern that air quality and naturally flowing waterways, such as creeks and rivers, would be damaged.  

Injection wells have definitely been known to cause earthquakes (look at the clear effects in Ohio).  When neighborhoods become polluted by this process, property values will proportionately decrease—people who have put their lifesavings into their homes will find that those domiciles are worth far less than they anticipated.   

Many seniors, who have planned to sell their homes after retirement in order to live off the proceeds, will be shocked that their nest eggs are not worth what they expected.  Some people will not be able to retire.  Others, through no fault of their own, will have to live a much more modest life style as a result of the diminished values. 

 “The California Public Resources Code stated that ‘methane gas hazards … are a clear and present threat to public health and safety.’”  Thus, polluting emissions from fracking and other similar practices would “undermin(e) work to address the climate crisis.”  

Consequently, the City Council motion asks that an ordinance be written “to change the zoning code to prohibit … hydraulic fracturing, gravel packing, and acidizing …” and that such a measure must be “consistent with the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Safe Drinking Water Act.”  

Let’s do it!


(Rosemary Jenkins is a Democratic activist and chair of the Northeast Valley Green Coalition. Jenkins has written Leticia in Her Wedding Dress and Other Poems, A Quick-and-Easy Reference to Correct Grammar and Composition and Vignettes for Understanding Literary and Related Concepts.  She also writes for CityWatch.)






Vol 12 Issue 3

Pub: Jan 10, 2014