Updates & Events

Governor Gets 100,000 Anti-Fracking New-Year Wishes

Enviros take aim at SB 4 during measure’s public tour.

By Natalie Cherot

Poster children: Protesters at a rally organized by outside the Santa Barbara Courthouse. (Robert Bernstein)

Californians against enhanced-oil and gas extraction techniques such as hydraulic fracturing and acidizing wished Gov. Jerry Brown a happy New Year by delivering boxes filled with 100,000 public comments urging the governor to refrain from expanding fracking operations throughout the state.

The anti-fracking pleas were compiled and delivered by Californians Against Fracking, a broad coalition urging a statewide fracking ban that includes Food and Water Watch, Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace and, among others.

The group sought to add growing concern over the state’s two-year record-low rainfall to the usual litany of fracking objections, arguing that wasting water on fracking during the drought is frivolous as well as environmentally hazardous. Fracking and acidizing involve injecting high-pressure liquids into well bores.

The anti-fracking sentiments were collected over the past couple of months during the SB 4 public-comment tour. Brown signed SB 4, the so-called fracking bill, into law last September.

The measure called for a new study to be conducted on fracking and acidization, and for comprehensive permitting and regulatory processes to be implemented with state and local agencies, as well as public disclosure of chemicals used in fracking and acidization projects.

Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) and Assemblyman Das Williams (D-Santa Barbara) threw their reluctant support behind SB 4, calling it weak but the best that could be done right now. Major environmental groups, who had hoped for an outright fracking ban, pulled support for the bill while it was on the Senate floor. Environmentalists, however, have lauded the legislature’s insistence on public comments, seeing it as an opportunity to strengthen the bill’s regulatory prowess or, possibly, secure a moratorium on fracking until the state proves it safe.

California’s Department of Conservation, which oversees the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), took the tepid fracking regulations out for a test drive during public forums held in Oakland, Sacramento, Bakersfield, Long Beach, Salinas and, most recently, in Ventura on Jan. 8, and in Santa Maria on Jan. 13. The public hearings are mandated as part of the DOGGR’s SB 4 rule-making process and forthcoming environmental impact report on fracking and acidizing.

Santa Barbara-area enviros including members of the Santa Barbara, the Sierra Club, Occupy and the ACLU descended upon the Jan. 8 meeting at Ventura College’s Performing Arts Center to air their grievances. All in all, the gathering attracted about 250 people.

Representatives of SB 4′s architect, Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), were on hand, as was staff from Jackson’s office. Standing up to support fracking was a representative of Assemblyman Jeff Gorell (R-Camarillo), who has close ties to the oil industry. Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks and Oxnard city councilperson Carmen Ramirez showed up to support renewable energy over hydrocarbons.

Beginning this year, SB 4 requires oil companies to reveal the locations of fracking and acid drills. Two such projects, each one set to use 252,000 gallons of fresh Lake Casitas water, are scheduled for the mountains above North Ventura Avenue. Lake Casitas is currently at 60-percent capacity.

The rallies, mass emails, Facebook posts and tweets encouraged people to submit comments online or via mail if they couldn’t make it to the assemblies.

The strategy apparently worked. On Tuesday, according to Californians Against Fracking, 100,000 public comments were dropped off at Brown’s office in Sacramento. The group claims it’s a record amount of comments on environmental and health issues.

—Natalie Cherot

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    We will have to use the same method California uses with the US Gov. to bring about change. Begin at the local levels, i.e. the counties, to pass legislation to prohibit fracking in that county until there are enough counties with enough clout to force the State Gov. to do the right thing.

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