“Markets are lethal”

It was reported that the new assemblyman, Adam Gray, and his family (mother Candice, uncle Robin, Gray’s most senior political advisor, and his in-laws the Condit Tribe led by his wife, Cadee, brought a real old-fashioned political dog-and-pony show on fracking to Merced on Friday. The report explains why Gray, why Merced, why now:

A bill principally written by Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, was signed into law in September and sought to balance economic opportunities associated with drilling and environmental protection, particularly maintaining agricultural safety and groundwater. – Rob Parsons, Merced Sun-Star, Nov. 2, 2013



The so-called “anti”-fracking law they are talking about was primarily authored by state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills. And after the industry amendments were inserted by Gov. Jerry Brown before he signed it, Pavley should be redubbed “Auntie Fracking.”
Gray figures only because he carried the bill in the Assembly. Why would a freshman legislator be given the responsibility of carrying one of the very most important bills of the session? We don’t exactly know and it is idle to speculate that oil-industry lobbyists have found him unusually compliant due to his training in the offices of the recently indicted state Sen. Ron Calderon. As Pavley had two co-authors in the Senate, one from Los Angeles, the other from the Central Coast area, which may soon be renamed “The Monterey Shale Play,” so that you can have addresses like “Carmel-by-the-Sea on the Monterey Shale Play,” Gray had seven little helpers in the Assembly: three from the Monterey Shale Play, one from San Rafael, and three from the Los Angeles County.
Gray seems to be shaping up in the mold of one of his predecessors, former Assemblyman and Representative Dennis Cardoza, known in these pages for his four bills in the House of Representatives to gut the Endangered Species Act as “The Shrimp Slayer.” Through much of Cardoza’s wretched political career, one of his top staffers was Robin Adam, Gray’s uncle and it is rumored his present chief of staff although officially Adam works for state Sen. Kathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton.
The assemblage of articles below on fracking represent a number of viewpoints. One of my favorites is Lois Henry, editor of the Bakersfield Californian, in the thick of the old Central Valley oil patch. We are a great fan of Henry’s editorials, particularly her thoughtful pieces on water. We really only have one brief comment of criticism on her thoughtful piece on fracking issues: Tehachapi 1952.

But the lead piece by Noam Chomsky, even though it is about the Canadian shale oil and natural gas play, makes the central point: Chomsky said that a "major issue" behind climate change is the deficiencies of the market system.
"Markets are lethal, if only because of ignoring externalities, the impacts of their transactions on the environment," he said.
"When you turn to energy production, in market exchanges each participant is asking what can I gain from it? You don't ask what are the costs to others. In this case the cost to others is the destruction of the environment. So the externalities are not trivial."

This point about the primacy of markets will not be lost on Adam Gray, trained by his mother, his uncle, Dennis Cardoza and Ron Calderon that politics is a business in which you exchange your vote for money and power. That’s why Cardoza owns a string of racehorses and is a lobbyist and why Calderon is under indictment and members of the Assembly are beginning to call for his resignation. It would problematic to speculate that only the love of a Condit could save our young, but oh so jaded Adam.
We also found it fascinating that the effort to map the earthquake faults of the state in new, greater detail than every before, after it stalled for lack of funding in the 1991 recession, never got funding back to complete the tasks. Developers and oil companies would not have liked that job to be completed. So, today, there is a commission called the California Seismic Safety Commission, stuck in the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency that, when last Badlands interviewed its spokesman, was denying any relationship between fracking and earthquakes. This runs counter to the experience of every Western state where fracking in being done.
The west side of the San Joaquin Valley is already a toxic soup of pesticides, heavy metals, superfund sites and sewer sludge. Fracking will poison more water and add more toxic sludge.  -- blj
The Guardian
Noam Chomsky slams Canada's shale gas energy plans
Exploitation of Canada's tar sands and shale gas will have dire consequences for the environment, says Chomsky
Martin Lukacs



Canada's rush to exploit its tar sands and shale gas resources will destroy the environment "as fast as possible", according to Noam Chomsky.
In an interview with the Guardian, the linguist and author criticised theenergy policies of the Canadian government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
He said: "It means taking every drop of hydrocarbon out of the ground, whether it's shale gas in New Brunswick or tar sands in Alberta and trying to destroy the environment as fast as possible, with barely a question raised about what the world will look like as a result."
But indigenous peoples in Canada blocking fossil fuel developments are taking the lead in combatting climate change, he said. Chomsky highlighted indigenous opposition to the Alberta tar sands, the oil deposit that is Canada's fastest growing source of carbon emissions and is slated for massive expansion despite attracting international criticism and protest.
"It is pretty ironic that the so-called 'least advanced' people are the ones taking the lead in trying to protect all of us, while the richest and most powerful among us are the ones who are trying to drive the society to destruction," said Chomsky.
Chomsky expressed concern about an indigenous community in New Brunswick whose encampment blockading shale gas exploration was raided by a heavily armed Canadian police force two weeks ago.
Those protests come on the heels of the indigenous-led Idle No More movement that sprang up in late 2012 in response to the Harper government's repeal of numerous environmental protections and aggressive promotion of resource projects, often on indigenous lands.
Chomsky was in Montreal last weekend to give a lecture and celebrate the 50th anniversary of the magazine Canadian Dimension.
He told the Guardian that progressives "should work climate change into their efforts to organise", but in a way that emphasises how addressing climate change can improve rather than worsen peoples' lives.
"If it's a prophecy of doom, it will act as a dampener, and people's reaction will be ok, I'll enjoy myself for a couple of years while there's still a chance. But as a call to action, it can be energising. Like, do you want your children, and grandchildren, to have a decent life?"
While supporting the principles of the "degrowth" movement that aims to reign in over-production and over-consumption, Chomsky cited mass transportation, localised agriculture, and energy efficiency improvements as useful forms of growth that could mitigate climate change and improve quality of living.
"If you could take a subway from the suburbs in Boston, where I live, to downtown in 10 minutes, that improves your life over sitting in a traffic jam. People should see that."
Chomsky said that a "major issue" behind climate change is the deficiencies of the market system.
"Markets are lethal, if only because of ignoring externalities, the impacts of their transactions on the environment," he said.
"When you turn to energy production, in market exchanges each participant is asking what can I gain from it? You don't ask what are the costs to others. In this case the cost to others is the destruction of the environment. So the externalities are not trivial."
Chomsky said during the 2008 financial crisis, the big banks could "forget the fact that they're supposed to believe in markets, run cap in hand to the government and say bail us out".
"In the case of the environment there's no one to bail it out."
Merced Sun-Star
Fracking summit draws crowd at UC Merced…Rob Parsons
With new state regulations in the works on a controversial oil and gas extraction technique, a group of legislators, industry representatives and environmentalists gathered Friday at UC Merced to debate the risks and benefits associated with hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which involves breaking up underground rock formations with a mixture of chemicals and water.
A bill principally written by Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, was signed into law in September and sought to balance economic opportunities associated with drilling and environmental protection, particularly maintaining agricultural safety and groundwater.
“The San Joaquin Valley has one of the largest shale deposits in the U.S., and fracking and water protection are critically important issues to our area,” Gray said Friday.
Gray’s bill includes some of the strictest regulations on fracking in the country and was criticized by many in the fossil fuel industry, including the Western States Petroleum Association.
The bill was also criticized by many environmental groups seeking a ban on the practice.
On Friday, nearly 100 people gathered on the college campus for a daylong summit and debate on the risks and rewards associated with fracking. One provision of the new regulations essentially requires information on groundwater quality collected in fracking studies to be sent to UC Merced for analysis.
The event was sponsored by the nonpartisan Independent Voter Project and sought to feature points of view from all sides of the hot-button issue, spokeswoman Cadee Condit-Gray said. She is married to Assemblyman Gray.
Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum Association, discussed potential job growth and other economic benefits that could come with further oil exploration in California. She cited recent studies indicating that more than 15billion barrels of oil could be produced through exploration of the Monterey Shale Formation, a 1,750-square-mile area of underground rock running through the center of California.
“California needs a lot of transportation fuel – petroleum – to move around the 38million people that live here,” Reheis-Boyd said. “And crude oil production has been declining for a long time. If we don’t produce it here, we rely more on foreign sources, while producing it here reduces that reliance.”
Reheis-Boyd said finding a way to produce oil in California “the right way, the safe way” is critical to the state’s future.
Opponents such as the Sierra Club’s Merced Group believe there is no such thing as “safe fracking.”
“We heard a number of elected officials talk about (safe fracking), but no one really defined what they meant,” said Gary Lasky, a Sierra Club spokesman. “They say fracking has been going on for over 40 years, but what they’re doing now is not your father’s fracking.”
Lasky said changes to the process, particularly the addition of “acids and other volatile compounds now used” have raised troubling questions about the safety to groundwater supplies and agriculture.
“They talk about safety on the (petroleum) well itself, but they won’t talk about how they’re disposing of that toxic waste,” Lasky said. “The public deserves to know what happens to the those chemicals once they’ve been put into the ground.”
Gray said the purpose of Friday’s summit was to provide as much balanced information as possible on the “highly controversial issue,” which will likely be a hot topic in California, and the San Joaquin Valley in particular, for many years.




Los Angeles Times 
Campaign to map earthquake faults has slowed to a crawl
After the 1971 Sylmar earthquake, California began an ambitious effort to map hundreds of faults. But since 1991, only 23 have been drawn…Rong-Gong Lin II, Rosanna Xia and Doug Smith
After the 1971 Sylmar earthquake, California began an ambitious effort to map faults across the state.
Over the next two decades, officials published 534 maps of active earthquake faults. New construction was prohibited on top of these fissures because previous quakes showed that buildings could be torn apart during violent shaking.
But the mapping campaign has slowed to a crawl — with many dangerous faults still undocumented.
Since 1991, only 23 have been drawn. Because of budget cuts, none were completed between 2004 and 2011, according to records reviewed by The Times.
State officials said there are still about 300 maps to draw and even more to revise — including some in heavily populated areas of Southern California. That represents about 2,000 miles of faults statewide.
The slow pace affects public safety. The ban on building atop faults is  enforced only for those formally mapped by the state; the regulations don't cover faults not on California's official map.
It has become an issue in recent months because of several new developments planned along the Hollywood fault, which runs through the heart of the famed entertainment district. A high-rise development has been approved by the Los Angeles City Council along the fault area, and another large mixed-use projectnearby is already under construction.
State law requires new buildings located near faults mapped by the state to perform extensive testing to prove their structures are not on top of the fissures.
But the Hollywood fault has not been officially mapped, even though the state has known of its existence for decades.
The state geologist's office said it hopes to complete mapping the Hollywood fault by 2014. After that, officials want to concentrate on the Santa Monica fault in the Westside. Officials are also concerned about several other zones they believe need further seismic research, including San Diego Harbor, Yorba Linda, the San Gabriel and Pomona valleys, Indio, Napa County and South Lake Tahoe.
The state geologist's budget has dropped from $9.1 million in 2001 to $2.9 million for the current fiscal year. State geologist John Parrish said his office scraped up funding from its existing budget to restart the mapping program last year, though he said progress has been slow.
"We try to perform as best we can do," Parrish said.
Many earthquake faults have already been extensively researched by scientists at places such as USC, Caltech and the University of California. When creating a map, the state reviews all this outside research and draws a roughly quarter-mile zone around the fault. Under the state's Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Fault Zoning act, developers in that zone must prove their structure does not sit on top of the active faults.
The 557 maps the state has completed represent various parts of different fault lines, including such well-known ones as the San Andreas, Hayward and Newport-Inglewood.
Experts say it's crucial to complete the mapping to keep new structures away from dangerous areas straddling faults.
"Then there's no mistake [about] the red line," said retired state geologist Robert Sydnor. "It helps at the political level: the city council and the mayor cannot somehow override" it.
James Dolan, a USC earth sciences professor who has experience mapping faults, recalled driving through the Westside when he was doing research on the Santa Monica fault 20 years ago. "I was stunned to see, either right next to or on top of where I was mapping the fault, a big building in excavation," he said.
He called around and found out the fault had not been officially mapped by the state, so the property was not covered by the law.
Seismic safety experts have long studied the destruction caused above faults when big quakes strike. But the Sylmar quake reinforced the risks to officials.
One side of the San Fernando fault moved as much as 8 feet from the other side. Many homes and commercial buildings were severely damaged by the ground fracturing. About 80% of the buildings along the fault suffered severe to moderate damage.
The law applies to new construction along faults. But the discovery of fissures has led some to take action. Los Angeles Southwest College demolished two buildings in 1991 that straddled the Newport-Inglewood fault. The Los Angeles Unified School District tore down a portion of the new Belmont Learning Center after finding that a fault ran underneath it.
In Hayward, the original City Hall sits on the Hayward fault and has slowly been damaged by earth movement. The city abandoned the building after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.
Between the 1987 Whittier Narrows quake and the 1994 Northridge quake, some cities stepped up production of their own fault maps. But Parrish said that city mapping has now essentially stopped.
In the case of the Hollywood fault, The Times found the city's map incomplete. It does not include some sections of the fault drawn in maps published in scientific journals and by federal and state agencies.
Back in the 1970s, the state began its mapping by focusing on faults with recent histories of major ruptures, such as the San Andreas, which caused both the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the Loma Prieta quake. By contrast, the Hollywood fault is capable of producing a 7.0 earthquake but hasn't ruptured in modern L.A. history.
Parrish said state officials also had to pay special attention to mapping areas where an earthquake could cause soil to liquefy into mud. The dangers of liquefaction became apparent in 1989, when parts of San Francisco's Marina district were destroyed.
Still, Parrish said there are many faults in populated areas that need to be mapped.
"If you don't know what's there, then it's easy to just ignore it," he said. "That's why the Legislature set it up that they be zoned — to make local planning departments aware of these high-hazard areas."
The landmark earthquake law that started the mapping was co-written by the late state Sen. Alfred E. Alquist, who was considered a champion of seismic safety.
His wife, Elaine Alquist, recently retired after serving in the state Senate. Fault mapping took a back seat during the state's long financial crisis of the last decade, but Alquist said she believes now is the time for the Legislature to begin investing again.
"We have a history in California and in America of not doing things to take care of issues until somebody dies," Alquist said. "It would be a crying shame that we have not updated our process for mapping fault lines.... We need to put money into this. We need to know exactly where the fault lines are."




October 20-21, 2013
Letter: Put fracking risk in proper context…
Brad Gill, Hamburg, Executive director, 

Independent Oil and Gas Association of New York


To the editor
Wes Gillingham in his commentary ("Fracking's impact on severe weather," Oct. 12) follows the say-anything anti-drilling playbook, which is to scare people with inflammatory words, present information out of context, and back up claims with few facts.
Opponents of natural gas development quickly politicized the recent Colorado flooding by suggesting fluids used in the extraction process in those areas somehow threatened the downstream environment. Forget the automobiles, sewage treatment plants, various industrial sites, gas stations and others whose contents were washed away in the flood. Context and perspective doesn't serve Mr. Gillingham's cause.
This passage from a Denver Post opinion piece quotes Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who had this to say to the activists in his state: "'We've had 37,000 gallons of crude oil or condensates' released from storage tanks because of flooding." And "we had 20 million gallons, just so we're clear, of raw sewage. If you talk to most health-care professionals in terms of what the risk is, that's far more serious.'"
In the flood's aftermath, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment found no evidence of contaminants from oil and natural gas activity, but it found E. coli, the bacteria associated with sewage. Risk, in its proper context, is repeatedly ignored in the national drilling discussion.
Bakersfield Californian
LOIS HENRY: Looking for truth on fracking makes for a compelling film
Do yourself a favor and buy a copy of the documentary "Fracknation." Even if you think you've made up your mind on the now-controversial method of oil extraction known as "fracking," get the film.
In fact, you should watch it especially if you think you've made up your mind on fracking.
Because this documentary does something I love, something that I think is sorely lacking in most environmental reporting today -- it asks questions.
Seeking answers is a lot different than herding viewers down a chute to a preconceived conclusion, which is what I see in so many environmental news stories today.
Something is deemed dangerous to public health and instead of questioning the veracity of that statement, journalists dutifully go fetch reactions to this new supposed threat.
The alleged threat becomes solidified under the weight of those reactions.
And ultimately, fear, not truth, drives policy.
Fracking has taken that formula to new heights bordering on hysteria.
Filmmakers Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer, both former print journalists, set out to see if the hysteria was justified.
"I wanted to show the scientific evidence behind these allegations," McAleer told me.
Had fracking destroyed people's water? Was it responsible for water you can actually set on fire?
Had it increased cancer rates among nearby populations? Was it truly a seismic risk?
All of this and more has been laid at the feet of fracking by Josh Fox's "GasLand" documentaries and the avalanche of news stories that followed.
McAleer takes viewers along the journey as he crisscrosses the country and the globe in search of answers.
Living in Kern County, where hydraulic fracturing is common and has been for more than a generation, I really didn't give the issue much notice at first.
As oil exploration spread into the Shafter area with companies trying to get at the formation known as the Monterey Shale, I started hearing more fracking fears.
After "GasLand," which focuses on shale fracking in particular, fracking fears really ramped up in California.
Again, I say this is nothing new.
I covered the "big find" more than 20 years ago when oil companies first started fracking the Monterey Shale near Shafter. No horror stories ensued. The water was fine and people weren't keeling over because of chemicals used in fracking solutions.
In fact, the biggest problem with fracking the Monterey Shale was that it didn't work. Every well had the same result, a big play of light, sweet crude in the first few weeks that choked off to a dribble.
No one could find the right method to crack the shale and keep the oil flowing. (I recently heard on the QT that one company may have found the key, but I'll have to get back to you on that.)
The point is, not only have companies been hydraulically fracking wells for decades in western Kern, they've been doing it in the Monterey formation right around Shafter and no harm has come.
Even without some dude in a lab coat, I'd say the historic evidence shoes fracking is less harmful to your kid's health than, say, a giant sugary soda.
But "Fracknation" went in search of that lab coat dude and the resulting film is both fun and educational.
A highlight is when McAleer goes to Dimock, Pa., the epicenter of concerns over fracking and water quality, to ask one couple about a recent EPA finding that Dimock's water is perfectly safe.
I can't do the scene justice by describing it. You have to watch it for yourselves.
Another highlight is when McAleer finally gets "GasLand" director Josh Fox to say why he didn't mention that methane is naturally occurring in water where some areas also have large gas and coal deposits, such as Dimock.
Fox replies that he didn't find it relevant.
"That's a killer point," McAleer said. "Because he knew the water could be lit on fire long before fracking, but he chose not to include it. He knew he was excluding relevant evidence in order to make a partisan point."
Lighting a running kitchen tap on fire is a key dramatic scene in "GasLand." The ball of flame even scorches hair off the man's arm.
"Fracknation," however, gives evidence that people were lighting water on fire from Pennsylvania to Louisiana from the time of George Washington. (Oil and gas drilling appears to have, in some instances, allowed methane to migrate into to water wells but only because of poorly constructed well casings, not fracking, which happens too far below ground to affect most water wells.)
And those skyrocketing cancer rates in a Texas fracking town? The film quotes source after source, from both government and watchdog organizations, saying that just isn't so.
"The truth is, it's a lie," McElhinney told me.
McElhinney is passionate. Not just about holding environmentalists' feet to the fire, but about how journalists have abdicated their responsibility to do the same.
"The environmental movement is big business, some groups are vast corporations," she said. "Big oil should be scrutinized, for sure. But so should the environmentalists."
Environmental groups have the power to keep communities from developing their resources and improving their lot in life, which she accuses them of doing in impoverished countries around the globe.
That's how she says she got started on this quest. She was a freelancer covering a controversial gold mine in Romania.
Outside activists, she said, stopped a Canadian gold mine from opening in Rosia Montana, saying the mine would dump harmful chemicals and was already taking people's land and homes.
"None of it was true," McElhinney said. "They stole that community's dreams based on lies."
She thought other journalists would jump on board this great story she'd uncovered. Nothing.
"That's because most journalists are the environmental movement's constituency."
Like I said, lots to ponder in "Fracknation."