Local opponents against hydraulic fracturing are hoping that a recent decision by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to ban the controversial oil drilling procedure could convince other states to follow the Empire State’s lead in 2015.
Cuomo’s Dec. 17 announcement cited a 184-page report from the state’s Department of Health as the primary reasons why the state should no longer allow hydraulic fracturing. Among the concerns listed are seismic activity, potential for ground water contamination, respiratory health and soil contamination, among other thingssimilar concerns that Culver City residents opposed to hydraulic fracturing have raised.
Thus far, California Gov. Jerry Brown has resisted calls from organizations opposed to hydraulic fracturing to ban the oil extraction practice.
Hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, is an oil extraction technique that used to obtain oil and natural gas in areas where those energy supplies are trapped in rock and sand formation by injecting a mixture of water and chemicals into the ground.
“As a person who strongly opposes fracking in California and beyond, I am grateful to Gov. Cuomo of New York for his decision to ban fracking. He listened to New York State’s Commissioner of Health and put health ahead of economics,” said Rebecca Rona- Tuttle. “I hope that Gov. Brown will direct California’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, Diana Dooley, to investigate fracking and weigh in. Protecting people’s health is a moral issue.”
David Quast, a senior director with Energy in Department, an education and outreach of the Independent Petroleum Association of America and the California Independent Petroleum Association, calls the New York ban “an incredibly bad idea.”
“New Yorkers aren’t going to stop using natural gas because of this ban. What it’s going to do is deny people the kind of jobs that the oil industry is producing in New York and in neighboring states like Pennsylvania,” Quast said.
Homeowners in the hillside community of Culver Crest feel they are especially susceptible to seismic consequences from oil drilling in the nearby Inglewood Oilfield, where no fracking has occurred to date.
Culver Crest resident Suzanne DeBenedittis thinks the New York ban could become precedent set-ting for other states.
“Given that we have both the health risk from contamination of aquifers, plus the drought with the unaddressed moral concern as to who has the greater right to this scarce supply, and unlike New York, California’s oil sits in good measure near seismically active zones, with a strong enough groundswell, a ban will come to be in California,” asserted DeBenedittis, an ardent supporter of outlawing fracking.
Quast said Brown and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper have the right idea when it comes to frack-ing, unlike New York.
“These are two governors who rely on science to help them make their policy decisions, not on a bunch of anti-science people,” he said. “I don’t think that we’re going to see a raft of states pass bans on hydraulic fracturing because of this bad idea. The science takes you where it takes you.”
State Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Culver City) has failed twice to convince her colleagues in the Legislature- once as an assembly-woman and earlier this year to vote for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing.
The Culver City City Council voted unanimously to ask state legislators to ban the practice in 2012 and on March 24 the council passed a motion asking City Attor-ney Carol Schwab to draw up a policy to allow them to consider a moratorium on fracking, although none has occurred in Culver City.
Brown did sign legislation by state Sen. Fran Pavley (D- Agoura Hills) on Sept. 30 that will provide more transparency regarding hydraulic fracturing and directs the California Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources to craft new regulations for oil and gas companies that engage in fracking. The Department of Conservation, which oversees oil operations in California, released a set of pro-posed permanent regulations in June. Anti-fracking groups have charged that the proposals were not strict enough.
In an editorial in the San Diego Free Press, columnist John Law-rence suggests that Brown should enlist celebrities from the enter-tainment industry to lobby for a state prohibition on fracking. In a Dec. 30 column, Lawrence pos-its- but offers no evidence- that singers Paul McCartney and Lady Gaga, talk show host Jimmy Fal-lon and actor Alec Baldwin and other “high powered celebrities” may have “been listened to in high places where the hoi polloi had little success.”
Referring to Brown with an unflattering former sobriquet used by his detractors during his first term as governor in the mid -1970s and early 1980s, Lawrence wrote, “Gov. ‘Moonbeam’ needs to get together with (singer) Linda Ronstadt his former main squeeze, and other Hollywood celebrities, and get on the ‘ban fracking’ bandwagon.”
While Quast did not want to speculate at the specter of politics playing a role in Cuomo’s decision, DeBenedittis thinks it influenced the New York governor’s decision to ban fracking. Cuomo has been mentioned as a 2016 presidential contender.
“I believe Cuomo’s presidential aspirations forced him to listen to the will of the people to respect scientific findings,” she said. But DeBenedittis believes it will take more than scientific reports and celebrities to move Brown towards prohibiting fracking. “Only a groundswell from the masses, with citizens’ groups lobbying their state senators and representatives will bring about an effective ban.”
New restrictions and guidelines for hydraulic fracturing in Califor-nia are slated to be put in place in the summer of 2015.