Santa Cruz becomes first California county to ban fracking

SAN FRANCISCO Tue May 20, 2014 9:27pm EDT

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Santa Cruz on Tuesday became the first California county to ban fracking, the latest in a string of moves by local governments in the state to take a stand against the controversial oil and gas producing method.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, relies on injecting water, sand and some chemicals deep beneath the earth's surface to break up rock and free up oil and gas trapped below.

Environmentalists say the chemicals used in the process can pollute underground water supplies and cause other damage.

The scenic county of Santa Cruz does not have any oil or gas production, but advocates said momentum for a ban took shape after reports surfaced saying that oil companies were exploring the possibly of fracking in neighboring San Benito county.

The ban is also intended to pressure California Governor Jerry Brown into agreeing to put a halt to the practice in the state, a step he refused to take in the last legislative session.

Brown has said he supports fracking because he believes it is better for the state to produce its own crude oil than rely on imports.

"While Governor Brown refuses to protect our health and environment from fracking risks, local communities across the state are moving forward with measures to fight oil industry pollution," said Rose Braz of the Center for Biological Diversity.

An oil industry representative on Tuesday played down the significance of the Santa Cruz vote, calling it "symbolic."

"Activists are going around the state pursuing total bans on oil and gas development under the guise of wanting to ban fracking, but in places where people earn their livings responsibly producing our oil and gas resources, this strategy won't work," said Dave Quast, California director of Energy In Depth, an oil industry-backed group.

Fracking has emerged as a top environmental issue in California. Its Monterey Shale formation contains an estimated 15 billion barrels of hard-to-reach oil, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The action in Santa Cruz follows a vote earlier this month by city leaders in Beverly Hills to ban fracking, making it the first municipality in the state to prohibit the practice.

Los Angeles and Culver City are considering bans on fracking as well.

Last month, the city council in Carson, California, declined to extend a temporary moratorium on fracking and other extraction practices. Occidental Petroleum is looking to drill more than 200 new wells in the Southern California city, although it denies it will frack or use acid to stimulate those wells.

(Reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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Comments (4)
Big2Tex wrote:
Hey CA, why not ban all forms of energy except wind, solar, and water? No taxes from gasoline, no excise taxes from gas or oil, no income taxes from all of those refinery workers. Ban all energy, wither away, and die. No one else would care and it would be weeks before anyone would notice.

May 20, 2014 10:21pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
snappy wrote:
Why not ban illegal aliens and public employee unions too? They are really and truly what is destroying California.

May 22, 2014 8:52am EDT  --  Report as abuse
GodagesilRex wrote:
As usual, the report contains the usual environmental misinformation about fracking. As a geologist of 34 years experience, I have been both an environmental consultant and active in the petroleum industry. Fracking normally takes place several miles deep in the earth. Average well depths are a mile. This is much deeper than domestic water wells which range in the hundreds of feet, and even most municipal water wells which are not much deeper than domestic wells. The screaming mee-mees count on the ignorance of the general public when it comes to drilling practices and procedures and petroleum geology in general. Below a thousand feet or more, interstial water is BRINE. There is no drinkable water to contaminate. This is not to say that in some areas like the Appalachians where rock formations are highly deformed, fractured and faulted, that natural pathways do not exist that can lead to shallow aquifers being exposed to fracking fluids. There is also the risk of poor cementing and casing jobs can lead to cross contamination, which is a risk in any type of drilling. The reports of increases seismicity due to injected fluids is highly exaggerated. They reported findings of this in Colorado as early as 1978 due to pumping by a government Arsenal. The problem with this hysteria is that people do not understand how earthquakes are measured. One gradation on the scale is 100 times the previous gradation but two steps up the scale is 1000 times greater. So a quake of 2 or 3 is barely perceptible to a person and causes viturally no damage. Fracking induced earth movements are by and large micro quakes and of no consequence. Gas…a lot of places reporting the presence of gas leaks have the same problem with or without fracking. Coal gas is present in areas like the Appalachians and it has always been a nuisance. I hope the gasoline suppliers see fit to curtail deliveries to the counties banning fracking. If they don’t want to exploit their own resources, then they should not get a free ride on the counties that do.

May 22, 2014 11:00am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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