| SAN FRANCISCO
SAN FRANCISCO May 20 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
Brown has said he supports fracking because he believes it
is better for the state to produce its own crude oil than rely
"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
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
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
(Reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)