Damon Nagami, Senior Attorney, Santa Monica
This week, the California Senate is expected to vote on whether to impose a moratorium on fracking and acidizing until the state studies the risks and determines whether these heavy industrial extraction processes can—or even should—be allowed to continue. Senators should listen to the 68% of Californians who support a moratorium and pass Senate Bill 1132.
The vote comes on the heels of a major development last week, when federal energy officials drastically reduced their estimate of the amount of recoverable oil in the much-hyped Monterey Formation—by a whopping 96 percent.If the new numbers are accurate, then all of the hype over the Monterey has been about 32 days’ worth of oil, which underscores the absurdity of recklessly rushing ahead and putting Californians’ health and the environment at risk. For what? The promise of jobs and increased state revenues—already debunked as misleading and inflated—would now appear to be a complete mirage. Even before this report, Californians were already worried about increased risk of earthquakes, further strains to our water supply in the middle of an extreme drought, toxic spills, accidents, contaminated drinking water, and increased air pollution. With this news, we see that the risks are still high and the benefits have been way oversold.
Without a statewide moratorium, communities have been left unprotected and have had to scramble to defend themselves from the risks of fracking. For example, in San Benito County, a group of local residents were spurred to action when fracking showed up uninvited and unexpected. In this video, San Benito residents Jim Leap and Polly Goldman tell their personal story of how fracking and seismic trucks came to their bucolic backyard. Their experience is a snap shot of what others can continue to expect without a statewide moratorium:
Growing weary of waiting for the state to act, San Benito’s residents managed to quickly organize an advocacy group, reach out to NRDC and others for help, and take on the challenge of educating themselves about the myriad risks to human health, water, and way of life associated with fracking. Their efforts so far have been heroic, leading to much-needed improvements in the local county oil ordinance. But those modest provisions still fall far short of what’s needed to fully protect local landowners and residents. Communities should not have to fend off fracking by themselves. They need the state to impose a moratorium.
Two thirds of Californians across party lines believe the risks are not worth it and support a moratorium. The majority of Democrats (78%), Independents (74%) and Republicans (51%) back a time-out like this. Senators should listen to the overwhelming chorus of voices calling for a moratorium on fracking—including the Los Angeles Times editorial board—and support SB 1132.