L.A. City takes first step toward fracking moratorium
The Angeles Chapter's newly formed Fracking: Oil & Gas Committee has teamed up with several partner organizations to push for ending the practice of hydraulic fracturing in the City of Los Angeles. Their efforts paid off on February 28 when the Los Angeles City Council voted 10-0 to adopt a fracking moratorium – which, if approved, would make Los Angeles the largest city in the nation to adopt a moratorium on this controversial oil and gas drilling practice.
Partner organizations included Food & Water Watch, the National Grassroots Coalition, the Sierra Club's Save the Montebello Hills Task Force, Citizens Coalition for a Safe Community and other local environmental groups that have been working for a number of years to address the public health and environmental hazards of hydraulic fracturing.
Hydraulic fracturing is among the extreme techniques the oil and gas industry uses to extract oil and gas from hard-to-reach places.It involves injecting high volumes of water, toxic chemicals, sand and other materials deep into the ground to break up soil and rock. Increasingly, the industry also uses a form of well stimulation, often called acid stimulation, which involves injecting high concentrations of extremely powerful acids deep into the ground to dissolve rock.
In a letter to City Council members, Angeles Chapter fracking committee co-chairs Tom Williams and David Haake called for “an immediate moratorium on and suspension of all oil and gas permits and revisions of conditional use permits pertinent to hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking,’ and acidization within the City of Los Angeles until the municipal code sections pertinent to oil and gas are thoroughly revised and updated to protect the health and ensure the safety of the residents of the City of Los Angeles.
“Hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking,’ has become an important and timely environmental and community issue for the City of Los Angeles,” they wrote. “Fracking imperils human health and safety, our air and water quality, local wildlife, increases the risk of earthquakes, and contributes to climate change. This is especially true in a dense urban environment where residents live in close proximity to oil fields and where water conservation is critically important.”
Moratorium proposed in September
The Los Angeles Fracking Moratorium was introduced last September by Council members Paul Koretz and Mike Bonin. A second motion was introduced later by Council members Jose Huizar and Bernard Parks asking for a review of LA City codes as they pertain to fracking. The Angeles Chapter’s Fracking Committee voted to endorse both motions, asking that they be combined to provide an immediate moratorium and suspension of fracking activities in the City of Los Angeles. Both motions were approved by the City Council.
Advocates in support of the moratorium have warned that fracking could threaten to contaminate groundwater and cause earthquakes in an already seismically-active region. “It uses excessive amounts of water in a drought, and most significantly for me is the incredible risk of devastating earthquakes,” Bonin told KNX 1070 Newsradio.
In a commentary posted on his blog ClimateSpeak.com, Robert Collier wrote, “What’s not widely understood is that beneath the glitz and power of the entertainment industry and finance, Los Angeles has been an oil town ever since the days when Upton Sinclair wrote his epic novel Oil!.
“The city of Los Angeles includes 1,880 active oil wells that produce a total of about 15,000 barrels per day. Neighboring areas of Los Angeles County – primarily Long Beach, Inglewood and Beverly Hills – produce about three times as much again, for a countywide total of 66,000 barrels per day. State regulators say they do not know how many of these wells involve fracking or acidizing."
A good overview of fracking and acid stimulation in California can be found in Collier's series of articles published on the website Next Generation. Another good source of information can be found Sierra Club California's website.