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The fight against fracking goes local as California cuts water releases

Lawmakers for the state of California and the city of Los Angeles have renewed their intentions to stop fracking in the state until better oversight, environmental threat and safety issues are dealt with. On Friday, the Los Angeles City council will vote on a moratorium on all fracking until the practice is confirmed to be safe. According to a Feb 26 Grist News article, state legislators have introduced SB 1132 to stop fracking until economic, environmental, and public health outcomes are properly studied.

Dry Riverbed in California 2009
Dry Riverbed in California 2009National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

This bill would restore the strong provisions that were taken out of the existing law before it was passed. The new law might restore the earlier provisions of the state’s strong regulation law.

Councilman Mike Bonin addressed the Los Angeles Planning and Land Use Management Committee on Tuesday. He said,

"Fracking and other unconventional drilling is happening here in Los Angeles, and without the oversight and review to keep our neighborhoods safe. We can’t allow the safety of our neighborhoods that we represent to be jeopardized by dangerous drilling.”

The city of San Francisco and nine other cities and counties have passed measures in favor of banning or placing moratoriums on fracking. The government anti-fracking movement seems to have gone local in the wake of a disappointing state level performance.

California is also in the middle of a drought that is unprecedented in modern times. The situation is so dire that the California Department of Water Resources has cut off water to the central valley and the south state. This will devastate crop production in a state that produces a good portion of the nation’s produce.

WHAT ABOUT WATER FOR FRACKING?

One question that comes to mind is whether fracking will also be curtailed during the drought. In California, most of the fracking is to extract oil where different processes are used than for extracting gas. Another claim is that new technology reduces the need for fresh water. Finally. The used water is buried deep under ground instead of being held in above ground ponds.

In California, the average fresh water consumption is about 164,000 gallons per well, according to a Feb. 26 SF Gate article. This is a favorable comparison to fracking for gas in states like Pennsylvania (4.5 million gallons of water per well) and Texas (up to six million gallons per well.)

The actions being taken at the state and city levels will hopefully restore California’s fracking regulation to its historical strength to rein in fracking that has gone out of control.

The vast Monterey Shale formation is still up for grabs as the nation’s largest oil bearing shale deposit. There is no word as to what fracking methods will be used to extract oil from that unique land mass. The challenge is to regulate the process, ensure the people of the state realize some of the income and rein in a practice that causes trouble far beyond the well area.