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L.A. City Councilmembers Call for Fracking Moratorium

Energy
L.A. City Councilmembers Call for Fracking Moratorium

Food & Water Watch

Yesterday, in city hall, Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Mike Bonin introduced a motion to place a moratorium on fracking within the city of Los Angeles and along the city's water supply route. They were joined outside beforehand by the consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch, the environmental health group Physicians for Social Responsibly-Los Angeles, Citizens Coalition for a Safe Community (CCSC) and the Sierra Club to announce the motion at a press conference.

Fracking in Culver City, CA. Photo credit:
Baldwin Hills Oil Watch

"On one hand, we're all concerned that a strong earthquake could destroy the Bay Delta levees and contaminate one of L.A.’s major water supplies with salt water," said Councilmember Paul Koretz. "On the other, fracking is happening all over the state, and the United States Geological Survey says fracking-related activity has definitively caused earthquakes in Ohio, Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. As a state, we have to decide which it is, are we protecting our water supply, or not?"

"Already, 16 of our neighborhood councils have called for a ban on fracking," Koretz continued. "Like with coal power and plastic bags, if the federal or state governments are unwilling or unable to act to protect Angelenos, we will do our part to lead by example here at the local level." 

“The quality of our water and the safety of our neighborhoods comes first,” said Councilmember Mike Bonin. “The threat fracking poses to families in L.A. is serious and I am proud to join Councilmember Koretz in proposing a moratorium on fracking in the City of Los Angeles and along our water supply route.”

Councilmember Bonin called on Gov. Brown (D-CA) to listen to the majority of Californians who disapprove of the inherently dangerous process of fracking and impose an immediate statewide moratorium on fracking.

“As Governor Brown has failed to act, cities like Los Angeles are stepping up to protect residents,” said Brenna Norton, Southern California organizer for Food & Water Watch. “Nationwide the evidence is clear: no amount of regulation can make this fundamentally destructive and toxic drilling safe."

"Food & Water Watch congratulates the courageous leadership of Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Mike Bonin, willing to stand up for Angelenos and all Californians,” Norton said.

Josh Fox with protestors in Los Angeles, CA, May 30, demanding Gov. Brown enact a moratorium on fracking. Photo credit: Californians Against Fracking

Fracking is a highly polluting form of oil and gas extraction that involves blasting huge volumes of water mixed with toxic chemicals into the earth to break up rock formations. The controversial technique is currently unregulated and unmonitored by California officials. Fracking has been tied to air and water pollution, seismic activity and it threatens the climate by emitting large amounts of methane.

“The health impacts of the chemicals used in fracking, acidization and gravel packing are clear,” said Angela Johnson Meszaros, general counsel for Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles. “Introducing these chemicals into a densely populated city like Los Angeles exposes people to unnecessary threats in both the short term and over the long term. Fracking is all the more reckless because we’re creating all these exposure routes just to extract oil to burn which has its own massive negative health consequences.”

Oil companies have already begun fracking in the Los Angeles region, most notably in the Inglewood Oil Field, the largest urban oil field in the country, located between the Baldwin Hills and Culver City. Residents living near confirmed fracking activity in the L.A. area have already experienced severe property damage, a noxious oil field blowout in 2006 and a spike in serious health concerns.

"The Citizens Coalition for a Safe Community fully supports the councilmembers’ motion calling for a moratorium on fracking and other forms of risked-filled exploitation of the remaining fossil fuel reserves under the city of Los Angeles,” said Paul Ferrazzi of CCSC. “With many old, idle and abandoned oil wells under existing infrastructure in the city, this is the prudent action for Los Angeles city councilmembers to support before a disaster similar to the 1985 Fairfax District Ross Dress for Less explosion is allowed occur again.

"We must act now on the city and county levels to prevent the destruction of our urban and rural communities given Governor Jerry Brown's refusal to impose a statewide moratorium to allow independent study of the environmental and health risks already realized in other parts of the country," Ferrazzi concluded.

Oil companies are gearing up to frack unconventional shale oil in the Monterey Shale, a formation beneath some of the state’s most productive farmland, critical water sources and dozens of towns and cities from the Salinas Valley to the Los Angeles Basin. It has also been noted that the Los Angeles County portion of the Monterey Shale contains more oil per square meter than any other oil producing basin in the world, making it a potential hotbed for fracking and other dangerous extraction activity.

Actor and environmental champion Ed Begley, Jr. also joined the press conference. “It is very important that we realize the potential risks that others around the country have already been dealing with and make sure that we do not expose Californians to those risks,” said Begley. “There are just too many unknowns and our citizens cannot afford foolish experimentation with our water, air, health, earthquakes and climate."

“Fracking has become a very local hot-button issue," said Koretz. "As the industry searches for more extreme ways to wring additional oil out of mature urban wells, we can’t allow their drive for profits to come before the health and well-being of the people of Los Angeles and their property.”

Visit EcoWatch’s FRACKING page for more related news on this topic.

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A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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