Californians hate fracking (but may get stuck with it, anyway)
A new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) reveals that the majority of Californian residents oppose expanded fracking in the Golden State.
Fracking (hydraulic fracturing) employs huge volumes of water, mixed with sand and toxic chemicals, to blast open rock formations and extract oil and gas. The technique is environmentally destructive, resulting in pollution to groundwater supplies and streams, as documented in the documentary films Gasland 1 and 2, directed by Josh Fox.
“As state legislators debate stricter regulations on fracking—already under way in California—51 percent oppose increased use of the drilling method used to extract oil and natural gas (35% favor it, 14% don’t know),” according to PPIC, a nonpartisan research foundation. “Asked whether they favor or oppose stricter regulation of fracking, 50 percent say they are in favor. Among those who favor increased use of fracking, 62 percent also favor stricter regulation.”
The controversial technique, currently unregulated and unmonitored by California officials, has been used in hundreds and perhaps thousands of oil and gas wells across the state, according to the Center for Biological Diversity.
The survey asked about another hotly debated plan to increase the supply of oil: construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to carry oil from Canada to Texas refineries. Half of Californians (51%) favor building the pipeline, 34 percent oppose it, and 15 percent don’t know.
“Californians are conflicted when it comes to controversial efforts to expand the oil supply,” said Mark Baldassare, PPIC president and CEO. “Slim majorities favor building the Keystone XL pipeline but also oppose fracking, with many wanting stricter regulation of the practice.”
Delta advocates fear that much of the water destined for the proposed peripheral tunnels under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) will be used to expand fracking in California. The tunnels will hasten the extinction of Central Valley Chinook salmon, steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species.
As oil companies gear up to frack massive petroleum deposits in the Monterey Shale and build the Keystone XL Pipeline, the poll also found that 65 percent of Californians say the state should act immediately to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
The poll — the second this summer to find strong California opposition to fracking — puts new pressure on state lawmakers and regulators and Gov. Jerry Brown to halt fracking expansion in the state. A USC/Los Angeles Times poll in June found that more than half of California voters — 58 percent — favor a moratorium on fracking.
It’s time for a fracking moratorium
“Californians are telling pollsters and policymakers they don’t want fracking pollution fouling up our state,” said Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity. “There’s strong public support for a moratorium on this dangerous practice. We need to stop the oil industry’s fracking expansion now, while there’s still time to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink and the climate we depend on.”
Oil companies, represented by the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), are increasingly interested in fracking the Monterey Shale, an oil-laden geological formation beneath some of the state’s most productive farmland, important wildlife habitat and scores of towns and cities.
“Fracking routinely uses numerous toxic chemicals, including methanol and benzene. A recent Colorado School of Public Health study found that fracking increases cancer risk and contributes to serious neurological and respiratory problems in people living near fracked wells,” according to Siegel.
Fish and wildlife are also at risk. Fish, including endangered Central Valley Chinook salmon and steelhead, can die when fracking fluid contaminates streams and rivers. Birds can be poisoned by chemicals in wastewater ponds and the intense industrial development that accompanies fracking pushes threatened or endangered animals out of wild areas they need to survive, Siegel stated.
“Drilling and fracking also release huge amounts of methane, an extremely powerful global warming gas,” said Siegel. “Methane is about 105 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas over a 20-year period. Burning the estimated 15.5 billion barrels of oil in the Monterey Shale will generate more than 6.6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, according to calculations based on Environmental Protection Agency figures.”
Besides threatening groundwater supplies, endangered salmon and steelhead in the state’s rivers and bird populations through the state, fracking also poses an enormous rise to California’s marine waters.
Ocean fracking operations in Santa Barbara Channel approved
An investigative piece by Mike Ludwig at www.truthout.org on July 25 has confirmed that federal regulators approved at least two fracking operations on oil rigs in the Santa Barbara Channel off the coast of California since 2009 without an updated environmental review that critics say may be required by federal law.
These operations were approved as state officials and corporate “environmental” NGO representatives gushed about the alleged “Yosemites of the Sea” and “underwater parks” created in Southern California waters under the “leadership” of Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association.
“The offshore fracking operations are smaller than the unconventional onshore operations that have sparked nationwide controversy, but environmental advocates are still concerned that regulators and the industry have not properly reviewed the potential impacts of using modern fracking technology in the Pacific outer continental shelf,” said Ludwig.
“Oil drilling remains controversial in Santa Barbara, where the memory of the nation’s third-largest oil spill lingers in the minds of the public. In 1969, the nation watched as thick layer of oil spread across the channel and its beaches following a blowout on an oil rig, killing thousands of marine birds other wildlife. The dramatic images helped spark the modern environmental movement and establish landmark federal environmental laws that eco-groups continue to challenge the government to enforce,” Ludwig noted.
The current push by the oil industry to expand fracking in California, build the Keystone XL Pipeline and eviscerate environmental laws was made possible because state officials and MLPA Initiative advocates greenwashed the key role Reheis-Boyd and the oil industry played in creating marine protected areas that don’t protect the ocean.
Reheis-Boyd chaired the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Blue Ribbon Task Force to create alleged “marine protected areas” that fail to the protect the ocean from fracking, oil drilling and spills, pollution, military testing, wind and wave energy projects and all human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering. She also served on the task forces for the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast.
Reheis-Boyd apparently used her role as a state marine “protection” official to increase her network of influence in California politics to the point where the Western States Petroleum Association has become the most powerful corporate lobby in California. The association now has enormous influence over both state and federal regulators.
Oil and gas companies spend more than $100 million a year to buy access to lawmakers in Washington and Sacramento, according to Stop Fooling California, an online and social media public education and awareness campaign that highlights oil companies’ efforts to mislead and confuse Californians. The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) alone has spent more than $16 million lobbying in Sacramento since 2009.
As the oil industry expands its role in California politics and environmental processes, you can bet that they are going to use every avenue they can to get more water for fracking, including taking Delta water through the peripheral tunnels proposed under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP).
The industry will also use its power to expand fracking in the ocean, as evidenced by the recent approval of ocean fracking operations off the Southern California coast, unless Californians rise up and resist these plans!
(Image via EcoWatch.)