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Three Bills Seek to Halt California Fracking

Energy
Three Bills Seek to Halt California Fracking

Center for Biological Diversity

Three California assembly members have introduced bills to halt hydraulic fracturing in the state and mandate review of the threats the practice poses to the environment and public health. Fracking uses huge volumes of water mixed with sand and dangerous chemicals to blast open rock formations and extract oil and gas. The controversial technique—currently unregulated and unmonitored by state officials—has been used in hundreds and perhaps thousands of California oil and gas wells.

Proposed fracking sacrifice zones in central and offshore Southern California. Source: Food & Water Watch

Reflecting growing concern about fracking’s threat to the environment and public health, Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), Holly Mitchell (D-Culver City) and Adrin Nazarian (D-East San Fernando Valley) have put forward three pieces of legislation—A.B. 1301, A.B. 1323 and A.B. 649—that would halt fracking in California until the state determines whether and under what conditions fracking can be done without threatening human health and the environment. Moves to halt fracking in California are supported by the Center for Biological Diversity, Food & Water Watch, Environment California and Clean Water Action.

“We applaud these legislators for their leadership in working to protect Californians from a dangerous fracking boom that could be devastating for the state,” said Brian Nowicki of the Center for Biological Diversity. “State regulators have shrugged off fracking’s dangers, so it’s up to lawmakers to stop oil companies from polluting our air, contaminating our water and undermining our fight against climate change.”

The New York state assembly recently voted to ban fracking for two years, and Vermont's governor signed a fracking ban into law last year.

“Given that fracking is inherently unsafe and poses a direct threat to our communities, we welcome legislation that provides for a comprehensive statewide moratorium,” said Food & Water Watch pacific region director Kristin Lynch.

Fracking has been tied to water and air pollution in other states, and it releases huge quantities of methane, a dangerously potent greenhouse gas. More than 600 wells in at least nine California counties were fracked in 2011 alone, and oil companies are gearing up to frack oil deposits in the Monterey Shale, a geological formation that lies beneath some of the state’s most productive farmland and important wildlife habitat.

“Fracking is an environmental nightmare,” said Dan Jacobson, legislative director of Environment California. “It pollutes our water, contaminates our air, destroys our beautiful places and keeps us addicted to fossil fuels. We need to ban fracking now.”

Fracking routinely employs numerous toxic chemicals, including methanol, benzene, and trimenthylbenzene. A 2011 report from the House Energy and Commerce Committee found that more than 750 different chemicals are used in fracking fluid and that many are toxic, carcinogenic or otherwise hazardous.

"We commend these legislators for stepping up on this critical issue,” said Andrew Grinberg of Clean Water Action. “Our state needs to put a halt to fracking, and ensure that this dangerous practice does not harm California's water, air, health and communities."

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

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Sign the petition today, telling President Obama to enact an immediate fracking moratorium:

 

A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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