and the Merced Sun-Star, as stupid as usual... -- blj
Our View: New fracking law a good step, compromise
One of the accomplishments of the Legislature this year is a compromise bill on fracking that allows the oil extraction technique to continue but with strict regulations to be drafted over the next 18 months. Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 4 last week.
Headed into the session, there were multiple proposals to ban fracking, the controversial procedure that most people have heard about and few people understand. The bill that passed will put fracking under more serious scrutiny in California than occurs in any other state, primarily because in 2005 Congress approved the “Halliburton Loophole,” which exempts fracking from the federal Safe Drinking Water Act requirements.
SB4 is of high interest to the San Joaquin Valley for several reasons:
• Fracking now takes place primarily in Kern County, but the practice likely will spread north, eventually possibly reaching Merced and Stanislaus counties. The Monterey shale formation covers 1,750 square miles running the length of the center of the state. The U.S. Energy Department estimates that the Monterey shale contains more than 15 billion barrels of oil, two-thirds of the shale oil reserve in the United States. A USC study suggested this could become a major economic boost for the Valley, creating as many as 512,000 new jobs. More than half of the fuel consumed in California, the state of many motorists, comes from foreign places.
• Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, was the principal co-author of this bill, which was carried by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills. Gray told The Modesto Bee that his interest in the subject was piqued by the USC study but also by the concern about groundwater. His district and the whole Valley, of course, are struggling with a shortage of water.
• One of the things that Gray was able to get included in the bill is a provision that all groundwater quality information collected in the fracking studies will go to a “doctoral-degree-granting institution located in the San Joaquin Valley.” That institution is, of course, UC Merced, and this will only enhance the campus’ growing reputation as a repository of knowledge about Valley water issues.
In promoting the bill, Gray organized a legislative trip to North Dakota to learn about fracking operations there. Republican Sens. Tom Berryhill of Modesto and Anthony Cannella of Ceres were part of that trip and ultimately voted for the bill.
The legislation had strong opposition from both sides. Many in the oil industry opposed any regulation while some environmental groups wanted a total ban on fracking. We like several aspects of the compromise that resulted.
The bill will require completion of a statewide environmental impact report and streamlined California Environmental Quality Act review of fracking projects.
Neighboring landowners will receive notice that fracking is taking place. There will be public disclosure of the chemicals used, and of the amount of fluid and pressure employed to fracture underground rock to extract oil. There also would be groundwater monitoring and sampling.
The law applies to all forms of well stimulation, including acidification, which entails injecting acid into wells to create channels through which oil and gas can flow.
California needs to continually embrace alternatives to fossil fuels, but it also should attempt to be less dependent on oil from the Middle East and nations such as Venezuela and Ecuador. In 1992, California produced half the oil it needed. Alaska provided 45 percent, and foreign sources accounted for 5 percent. By 2012, California produced less than 37 percent of the petroleum consumed in this state, and foreign sources accounted for almost 51 percent.
By shunning fracking, Californians would continue to send offshore the damage done by oil drilling even as we remain a state heavily dependent on gasoline-powered cars.
The use of petroleum won’t end anytime soon. With this law, California policymakers have helped provide a bridge by allowing safe extraction of old fuel, while continuing to encourage alternative fuel.
Finally, passage of this law is a feather in the cap for Gray in his first year in the Assembly. We have no doubt that his experience as a former legislative staffer was useful in bringing together people who frequently disagree. It is unusual for a first-year legislator to be so heavily involved in carrying a bill of statewide significance and interest.
Gray campaigned as a moderate who would promote economic vitality for the Valley, watch out for agriculture and yet not ignore the environment. His role in SB4 is a good example of achieving that balance.
San Francisco Chronicle
Alice Waters and California’s top chefs join together to fight fracking…Naomi Starkman
Chez Panisse chefs Alice Waters and Jerome Waag today launched a chefs’ petition urging their colleagues to take a stand against fracking in California. Working in collaboration with Food & Water Watch, founding member of Californians Against Fracking, the chefs are concerned about the threat fracking poses to the world-renowned food and wine that is grown, served and sold in California. The petition includes a letter calling on Governor Brown to place a moratorium on fracking.
In New York, the highly successful Chefs for the Marcellus has been instrumental in keeping fracking from putting that state’s agricultural bounty in jeopardy. Top chefs there, including Mario Batali and Bill Telepan, have been active and vocal on the matter.
Modeling itself after that group, dozens of top California chefs are now joining together and have already signaled their support, including legendary chef/author Joyce Goldstein; Chris Cosentino, Incanto, Boccalone; Joshua Drew, FarmshopLA; Ann Gentry, Real Food Daily; Bruce Hill, Picco, Zero Zero, Bix and the just-relaunched Fog City; Laurence Jossel, Nopa; Roxanna Jullapat, Cooks County; Robert Klein, Oliveto; Mourad Lahlou, Aziza; Joanna Moore, AXE; Anthony Myint, Mission Street Food; Daniel Patterson, Coi; Cal Peternell, Chez Panisse; Gayle Pirie, Foreign Cinema; Amaryll Schwertner, Boulette’s Larder/Bouli Bar; Annie Somerville, Greens; James Syhabout, Commis and Hawker Fare; Heidi Swanson, chef/author; Steffan Terje, Perbacco; and chef/author Bryant Terry.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a highly controversial process for extracting oil and gas that, along with related drilling, wastewater disposal and other extreme extraction methods like acidizing, has raised serious environmental and public health concerns across the country.
In California the oil and gas industry has intensified its focus on the Monterey Shale, which sits beneath some of the state’s most prized farmland, and hopes to conduct new, more intensive forms of fracking and extraction, putting California’s scarce and precious water resources and most prized farmland at serious risk. Wastewater from fracking and drilling operations is dumped or leaked into waterways, putting fisheries in danger.
With 81,500 farms producing $43.5 billion in annual profits in 2011, agriculture is California’s leading industry and the nation’s largest farm state. In states like Pennsylvania, Colorado and Ohio, grazing animals have gotten sick and died after drinking fracking runoff and water from farm wells near fracking operations. Here in California, a farmer in Kern county lost millions of dollarsworth of almond and pistachio crops from groundwater contamination from a nearby fracking operation.
In a letter to California chefs, Waters writes:
“As chefs, restaurateurs, and eaters who cherish and rely on the natural bounty cultivated and cared for by our state’s farmers, ranchers, fishers and food producers, we cannot stand by and allow the same fate to befall California’s unparalleled food shed. By signing this important petition you’ll be adding your name to a list of chefs who care about the provenance of our food, the stewardship or our land and the future of our state’s health.
The chefs’ petition comes on the heels of the passage by the state legislature of Senate Bill 4, a bill sponsored by State Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) that creates a permit process for fracking and other forms of oil extraction to continue. The bill, opposed by leading environmental, public health and consumer organizations, was just signed by Governor Jerry Brown. However,polls show that most Californians oppose fracking and nearly 200,000 have signed a petition to Governor Brown asking him to ban it outright.
“The oil and gas industry’s favorite talking point is how fracking will bring jobs, but they neglect to factor in the impact that fracking would have on the industries that make California great–namely our agriculture, fisheries, food production and culinary arts,” said Adam Scow, California campaigns director for Food & Water Watch. “The best way for Governor Brown to build a legacy for himself as a champion for California is to place a moratorium on fracking immediately.
The national coalition of chefs, Chefs Collaborative; Star Chefs, the magazine for culinary insiders, which also holds events featuring top chefs; and Chefs for the Marcellus all endorse the petition.
The petition and full list of chefs that have signed on to date can be found here. Below is a map of the overlay of farmland and fracking in California:
Map Credit: Food & Water Watch. Data sources include California Department of Conservation, Division of Land Resource Protection, Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program, 2010; California Department of Water Resources, Groundwater Basins in California, June 14, 2012; U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, Data for the US Shale Plays Map, May 9, 2011.
Petition and full list of chefs that have signed on to date…Food & Water Watch
California Chefs Join Together to Fight Fracking
Dear Colleagues and Friends,
Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is a highly controversial process for extracting oil and gas that has raised serious environmental and public health concerns across the country.
Fracking has been taking place in California, the nation’s leading farm state, for several decades without clear regulatory oversight. Now the Monterey Shale — a 1,750-square-mile area believed to hold as much as 15 billion barrels of crude oil and that sits beneath some of the state’s most prized farmland — is being targeted for a new, more intensive form of fracking and other extreme extraction methods, putting California’s scarce and precious water resources and most prized farmland at serious risk.
I am writing to urge you to join me in taking a stand against fracking in California.
In states already experiencing rampant fracking operations, leaks and spills have damaged crops, killed livestock and sickened the people near drilling operations, which are commonly found in agricultural communities that grow our food.
As chefs, restaurateurs and eaters who cherish and rely on the natural bounty cultivated and cared for by our state’s farmers, ranchers and food producers, we cannot stand by and allow the same fate to befall California’s unparalleled food shed. Our colleagues in New York, Chefs for the Marcellus, have made great strides in keeping fracking from contaminating New York’s food production.
Please join me and support California's farmers in calling on Governor Brown to place a moratorium on fracking now. By signing this important petition, you’ll be adding your name to a list of chefs who care about the provenance of our food, the stewardship of our land and the future of our state’s health.
Alice Waters, Executive Chef, Founder and Owner, Chez Panisse
Chefs’ Petition in Support of a Fracking Moratorium in California
Dear Governor Brown:
We, the undersigned, are members of California’s professional food community — chefs, restaurant owners, brewers, winemakers, purveyors, processors, retailers, authors and educators — who are concerned about the potential impacts of fracking on our livelihoods and those who grow and produce the food we offer our customers, guests and families. We are aware that the oil industry is planning to expand fracking throughout California to places where there has been robust agricultural production. Because of the potential risks to this production, we urge you to place a moratorium on fracking and to undertake a comprehensive study on fracking’s potential impacts to California’s water, air and soil.
The expansion of fracking in California will demand large volumes of water that could come at the expense of agricultural operations. Farmers across California are already coming to grips with dwindling water supply and could easily lose additional supplies to fracking operations. Fracking operations immediately contaminate water by mixing it with up to 500 toxic chemicals to induce the fracturing of the rock. It is estimated that each frack job uses between 500,000 and 3 million gallons of water, which becomes polluted and removed from the hydrological cycle.
In addition to supply, the global demand for California’s oil will likely increase the price of water, to the detriment of farmers. Many small and mid-sized farmers will not be able to compete for water against large multinational oil companies that are willing to pay much higher prices. Oil companies have already begun outbidding farmers for water supply in California, Colorado and other states. Without a reliable water supply, many farmers could be forced to leave farming.
The expansion of fracking could worsen groundwater pollution. Contamination can occur from methane and toxic fracking chemicals, as well as from the transportation and disposal of toxic — and at times even radioactive — wastewater. Once it occurs, it could be impossible or extremely expensive to clean up. Industry documents show that drilling wells routinely fail and that old drilling wells can serve as conduits for pollution to spread across a wide area. Nationwide, there have been over 1,000 cases of groundwater contamination from drilling. Shafter Occidental Petroleum Corporation was recently caught on video dumping fracking fluids next to an almond orchard in Shafter in violation of California law.
This is of great concern to us. Agriculture, food and beverage production, restaurants and tourism are vital, growing and interdependent economic engines that rely on our famously bountiful farmland and family farmers for their success. California’s 81,000 farms produce an annual $43 billion in crops that feed not only our state, but also the nation and the world. We stand to lose this and much more if we allow fracking to continue unabated and unregulated in our state.
We urge you to implement a moratorium now in order to responsibly protect California’s water and agricultural industry.
Alice Waters, Executive Chef, Founder and Owner, Chez Panisse
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and the Merced Sun-Star, as stupid as usual... -- blj