Fracking Goes to the Big City…Los Angeles
Monday, April 16, 2012
Oil Field, Inglewood (Photo-David Roy, InsideClimate News)
Having caused drinking water contamination and outbreaks of earthquakes in rural regions in Montana, Oklahoma, Ohio, Arkansas and Pennsylvania, the controversial practice known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” has gone Hollywood. Residents of the Culver City-Inglewood section of the Los Angeles area have learned that the energy company Plains Exploration and Production (PXP) recently conducted fracking tests in the Inglewood Oil Field, a 1,000-acre site where more than 1,600 oil wells have been drilled since the 1920s.
The nation’s largest urban oil field, Inglewood is surrounded by residential neighborhoods where 300,000 people (more than 200,000 of them non-white) live within a three-mile radius, and have been complaining for decades about pollution from oil drilling. In 2006 a release of noxious gases led to a successful lawsuit against Los Angeles County for stronger protections from the health consequences of living so close to an oil field. A settlement reached last year reduced the number of wells PXP could drill and obligated it to conduct a study of the feasibility and impact of fracking at the oil field, which would be the first study on the impact of fracking in California, including its impact on groundwater.
Production at Inglewood had been declining, but the rising price of oil has apparently convinced PXP that fracking could extract the remaining oil profitably. In fracking, energy companies use powerful pumps to force a pressurized mix of water and chemicals into deep layers of rock-like shale, causing fractures, which allow the extraction of otherwise unavailable natural gas or oil.
As nearly two-thirds of U.S. shale oil deposits are found in California, it was only a matter of time before the issue would begin to roil the Golden State. The energy industry last year killed state legislation that would have required companies to disclose what they put into the ground, as they must in at least nine other states. This year, the legislature is considering two bills that would require frackers to register the chemicals they use on a public website and notify property owners before drilling or fracking occurs near their land. State regulators would also have to identify on its website which wells have been hydraulically fractured.
At the same time, however, the administration of Governor Jerry Brown has been hoping to boost the state’s sluggish economy by easing rules for oil drilling in California, firing two top regulators last year over permitting delays. At the federal level, President Barack Obama has signed an executive order creating a task force to coordinate federal oversight of “unconventional” domestic natural-gas development, including fracking.
To Learn More:
Fracking in L.A.? Test Wells at Urban Oil Field Spark Water Worries (by Ngoc Nguyen, New America Media/InsideClimate News)
Oil Extraction Method Widely Used in California with Little Oversight (by Michael J. Mishak, Los Angeles Times)
Obama Order Coordinates Federal Oversight of “Fracking,” Gas Development (by Andrew Restuccia, The Hill)
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