By Mary Zhu
To remodel your kitchen, city permits and compliance with regulations are required. Yet you can hydrofrack in California, unregulated and untracked.
You can inject chemicals (largely unidentified but known to include carcinogens), tons of sand and millions of gallons of fresh water per well, under extreme pressure, without regard to earthquake faults, with impunity. You can then abandon the mine when the shale oil is exhausted, leaving the land and water contaminated in perpetuity.
The Centers for Biologic Diversity have documented 10 California counties with active wells, including Sacramento, Colusa, Los Angeles and Monterey.
We are now under SB 4, California’s first law to regulate fracking. Pursuant to SB 4, DOGGR (Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources) is to issue regulations in compliance with this law and provide an environmental impact report. A 60-day period, ending Jan. 14, is provided for public comment.
Here are my concerns in the form of a petition:
* SB 4 and its amendments are vague, ambiguous and provide loopholes for industry. Thus, the Western State Petroleum Association and DOGGR claim oil/gas companies are released from environmental review until the EIR deadline of July 15 (Berkeley Blog, Nov. 18, 2013). It is unacceptable for DOGGR to provide the oil industry with this lead time to amass vast fortunes by fracking every possible well before regulations are in place.
* The deadline for DOGGR’s regulations is Jan. 1, more than six months before the EIR deadline (Berkeley Blog). That DOGGR would issue regulations prior to the EIR is without logic.
* The regulations will be issued prior to the closing of public comments, thus casting doubt on the value to DOGGR of the invited public comments.
* The EIR must address greenhouse gas emissions from fracking, including methane leaks. Industry needs to justify its low estimate of methane emissions in light of studies from Cornell and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reporting levels nearly twice those from industry.
Accurate measurements of methane leaks are critical as this gas is a far more potent heat trap than carbon dioxide. The higher measurements of methane leaks from Cornell and NOAA could eliminate the purported carbon advantage of natural gas over coal (Nature, Jan. 3, 2013).
The carbon footprint of natural gas also must include the tremendous quantities of fossil fuels used to extract it; it is not merely the burning of the end product.
The EIR must specify how our drinking water will be protected, given the Halliburton Loophole, which exempted fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act.
* Local bans against fracking must be honored and not be pre-empted by DOGGR.
* We stand with the 20 top climate scientists in their letter to Gov. Jerry Brown (San Jose Mercury News, Nov. 12, 2013) that fracking will increase greenhouse gases and runs counter to California’s goal of cutting global warming emissions.
* Given the above documented difficulties in regulating the powerful oil industry, the confused language of SB 4 and the adverse consequences of burning the vast stores of shale oil/gas, we are adamant in our call for a moratorium on hydrofracking.
If you share the above concerns, please feel free to copy the above petition or use it as a template. The addresses are [email protected]; fax, 916-324-0948; Department of
Conservation Office of Governmental and Environmental Relations, 801 K St., Sacramento, CA 95814, Attention: Well Stimulation Regulations.
Comments also will be taken at five public hearings around the state, including in Sacramento, from 3 to 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 6, in the Sierra Room at the California Environmental Protection Agency Building, 10th and I streets in Sacramento.
— Mary M. Zhu is a Davis resident.