The fracking boom has made its way to California. Companies are already fracking in at least six counties and they’re poised to expand operations.
Fracking involves blasting millions of gallons of water, along with sand and toxic chemicals, deep into the earth to break up rocks and extract oil and gas. Amid growing contamination concerns nationally, state legislatures in New York, New Jersey and Vermont have enacted bans or moratoriums.
California officials have seemed unconcerned. The Department of Conservation’s oil and gas division has acknowledged that it does not even monitor, let alone regulate, fracking.
Yes, that’s right: California regulators have no idea when, where or in how many wells fracking is occurring in the state – or even what chemicals are used in the process. It is, of course, impossible to protect the public from fracking risks in the absence of such basic information.
Transparency is a critical first step. State officials and the public need to know where and when companies are fracking, how much water is being used, what chemicals are being employed and how contaminated water is being disposed of. And the industry needs to disclose this basic information before a project begins – not after the damage is done.
However, as currently drafted, the only state fracking law currently in the works, AB 591, would allow the oil and gas industry to withhold critical information – including what chemicals are used and where fracking is occurring – simply by claiming the information constitutes a “trade secret.” Moreover, the bill requires disclosure only after fracking operations are completed, making it impossible to determine ahead of time whether the operation is safe.
Actual regulation is also critical. Both lawmakers and state regulators need to make protection of the state’s drinking water, aquifers and lakes from contamination a top priority.
Fracking requires an enormous amount of water – as much as 5 million gallons per well. It also routinely employs chemicals like methanol, lead, arsenic, chromium-6 and benzene. The evidence is quickly mounting throughout the country that chemicals like these are making their way into aquifers and drinking water.
Fracking also threatens California’s wildlife. Endangered species such as the California condor, San Joaquin kit fox and blunt-nosed leopard lizard live in places where fracking will likely proliferate. These already-imperiled animals can be killed or harmed in many ways by fracking and the industrial development that accompanies it.
In the end, it may be wiser for our lawmakers to follow the lead of other states and ban fracking. There just isn’t a compelling reason to aid and abet this dangerous, polluting industry. Speak up now and let them know you don’t think anyone should be fracking with California, and learn more at the Center for Biological Diversity’s California Fracking campaign page.
Photo of fracking site courtesy of the Department of Energy.