Fracking the Fault




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Oil industry propaganda is smooth and slick, almost viscous in its common sense logic that explains everything. Historically, California is familiar with the style, having invented some of it. We are being visited with the latest model now because hydraulic fracturing technology is making accessible the largest formation of shale oil in the nation, the Monterey Shale formation, two thirds of the national supply,
Much of the industry propaganda is actually produced by the financial industry, citing regiments of their paid scientists to say that hydraulic fracturing, fracking (the injection of millions of gallons of water, chemicals and sand into very deep wells) will not harm groundwater or air quality.
Both are bogus claims and the image of ordinary rural dwellers in fracking zones lighting up their tap water like a road flare has done more to undermine the “scientific” regiments than any number of articles by environmentalists. Although news of a $8.7 million settlement between an oil company and a Kern County farmer whose orchard was destroyed by polluted groundwater was interesting to some of us in the San Joaquin Valley, quite near the San Andreas.
The third problem mentions is usually called “seismic activity.” This leads us to a peculiarity about the Monterey Shale formation. It is a somewhat amorphous blob on many maps, no two quite the same, that stretches from a thin northern beginning below San Francisco to a fat belly in Kern County that sags down into Los Angeles and Orange counties where it peters out heading for the desert.  If you know California at all, you will realize that the formation travels through many kinds of landscape. What may not be apparent in the midst of this diversity is the “spine” of the Monterey Shale formation, the geological feature that ties it all together: the San Andreas Fault. In fact, oil geologists agree, is in part responsible for both the reservoir of oil that has been conventionally accessible for a century and the shale formation.
With this in mind, I called the California Alfred E. Alquist Seismic Safety Commission the other day, a division of the California State and Consumers Services Agency. In due time I was routed to an engineer who agreed to listen to my questions and respond. He told me that the seismic activity caused by fracking, if it was caused by fracking at all, was minor; and that “for every benefit there is a price.”
The largest earthquake in Oklahoma history occurred after fracking was established and a “skyrocketing” number of significant quakes are occurring in the Raton Basin region between Colorado and New Mexico.
Yet, Big Business and Patriotism, if the two can be distinguished in the US, are driving a speculative boom on the Monterey formation already, with the support of the president and the governor, most of the Legislature, Congress, Occidental Petroleum, which owns the largest chunk of the mineral rights, and the federal Bureau of Land Management, which will hold its second leasing auction later this month.

The San Joaquin Valley already has the worst air quality  in the nation much of the time.

Monterey Shale
The Monterey Shale is a Miocen Age deep water deposit shale which due to recent stressing including the San Andreas Fault has fractured in places into a reservoir. The zone has been producing oil for over a hundred years and over 2 Billion barrels have been produced in the basin of southwest California. --