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Momentum Builds Toward A "Time Out" On Fracking In California

Damon Nagami

Posted July 6, 2012 in Curbing Pollution, Living Sustainably

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Concerned residents pack a Baldwin Hills meeting room in March to speak out on fracking.

When a company wants to use a new process or product that could potentially harm public health, common sense dictates that we gather information first, before risking the public’s safety.

When it comes to hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking," we can’t afford to ignore taking necessary precautions. Fracking and its associated operations have already been linked to water and air contamination, and to induced seismic activity. As a result, some jurisdictions have taken a precautionary approach. NRDC and other groups helped convince New York to impose a fracking moratorium in 2010 so state regulators could conduct an environmental review and develop rules. Vermont and the cities of Buffalo, NY and Pittsburgh, PA have prohibited fracking entirely. France has placed a ban on fracking until the practice can be proven safe, and Germany opposes fracking until more information is available.

Yet here in California, which has been at the forefront of environmental protection for decades, state regulators have been asleep at the wheel when it comes to fracking. We lack basic information about where fracking is taking place, how much water and which chemicals are being used, whether groundwater is being protected, and the extent to which fracking might be polluting our air or causing earthquakes. We've been told fracking's been around for years in California, but no one's been monitoring to see if the practice has been contaminating our water or air. Moreover, new fracking techniques associated with horizontal drilling may pose even greater threats due to the vast quantities of water used and the large amounts of hazardous waste generated.

Our lawmakers and regulators need to impose a moratorium on fracking until Californians can be assured that our communities, air quality, and critical fresh water supplies will remain safe.

In that regard, NRDC supports Assembly Bill 972, legislation authored by Assemblymember Betsy Butler that aims to prevent new fracking until effective new regulations are in place. The bill has been approved by two key Senate policy committees and is set to go before the Senate Appropriations Committee in August. The bill's language needs to be tightened up to ensure that new regulations address all risks to public health and community safety, including threats to drinking water and air quality and seismic impacts, before the moratorium is lifted, and we're working to ensure that these key points are clarified and incorporated as the bill moves forward.

Several key southern California stakeholders also support a statewide moratorium:

Momentum is building toward a moratorium on fracking in California, and AB 972 is the legislation that can get it done. Californians, if you agree that lawmakers and regulators should be taking basic precautions to protect our communities and our drinking water, please call your Senator and Assemblymember and urge them to support AB 972.

Photo credit: NRDC

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Comments

BSJul 8 2012 08:21 AM

The traditional form of fracking (i.e. in traditional vertical wells) is used in California, not the new type associated with horizontal wells in "tight oil" plays.

Given that this sort of fracking has been used safely since the 1940s, do you have any evidence at all to support putting a halt to it?

BSJul 9 2012 01:53 PM

No response?

Here's a list of chemicals used in fracking:

http://fracfocus.org/chemical-use/what-chemicals-are-used

Aside from the hydrocarbons, the list is pretty tame. In fact, many of these chemicals are so safe that they are commonly used in the food we eat.

And as is pointed out in my second link, those additives are as little as 0.5% of the fluid that is pumped into the well:

http://fracfocus.org/water-protection/drilling-usage

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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