| SAN FRANCISCO, March 19
SAN FRANCISCO, March 19 The council of the Los
Angeles County city of Carson, California, has unanimously
approved a 45-day moratorium on new oil and gas drilling, a
setback for Occidental Petroleum's plans to drill more than 200
new wells there and the latest example of local governments
taking a stand against fracking.
Occidental originally presented its plan to drill
new wells in the Dominquez Oil Field in Carson in 2012. At the
time it said it planned to use hydraulic fracturing, or
fracking, to reach an estimated 52 million barrels of oil
trapped below ground in the area.
Fracking consists of injecting water, sand and chemicals
deep underground at high pressure to break apart rock and
release oil and gas into a well. Its use has helped spur an
energy boom across the United States.
Occidental's plans were met with resistance from the Carson
community, which voiced concern about the impact fracking could
have on local air and water quality.
When two test wells currently operating at the Dominquez
project showed fracking would not effectively increase
production, Occidental withdrew fracking from the project's
scope, Occidental spokeswoman Susie Geiger said.
Despite that, the city council approved the moratorium on
new oil drilling by a vote of 5-0 late Tuesday to give city
officials time to consider additional regulations.
"There are too many questions, too many unknowns and too
many possible bad consequences that could result from the city
engaging in this activity," said Albert Robles, the Carson
council member who led the moratorium charge.
"These questions significantly outweigh any possible benefit
to the residents of Carson."
The city council will consider a one-year moratorium after
the 45-day period is up, Robles said.
Environmental groups, which held a rally outside city hall
prior to Tuesday's vote, expressed concerns that Occidental
would later decide to frack or use other controversial drilling
techniques like acidization.
They said they hope the moratorium will eventually lead to
an outright ban on all new oil and gas production in Carson.
Geiger said it was unclear what impact the moratorium would
have on Occidental's plans for the project. She said the project
would provide well-paying jobs and increased tax revenue for
Carson, Los Angeles County and the state.
The vote in Carson is the latest example of local
governments moving to take a closer look at fracking after a
bill that sought to bring the practice to a halt failed to pass
the California state legislature last year. California Governor
Jerry Brown has declined to impose a moratorium by executive
order, angering many environmentalists in the state.
The coastal city of Santa Cruz passed a fracking moratorium
in September. Last month, the Los Angeles city council voted
unanimously to prohibit fracking and other unconventional oil
recovery practices at oil fields in the city. A final vote is
required before it goes into effect.
"California cities and counties have broad legal and moral
authority to stop fracking at the local level," said Zack Malitz
of progressive group Credo, which has helped organize scores of
rallies against fracking in California.
"If Governor Brown doesn't stand up to the fracking
industry, he should expect a wave of local governments, under
intense pressure from their constituents, to take action to
protect residents from the toxic effects of fracking," he said.
(Reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)