Council Proceeds Cautiously on Fracking Ban
By Lynne Bronstein
Every member of the Culver City Council seems to be against hydraulic fracturing and other methods of oil well stimulation. Yet at the council meeting Monday night a discussion of how to proceed in creating a ban or method of controlling the fracking process yielded no action as the council heard yet more pleas from the community to do something about the controversial process.
Eighteen speakers in public comment presented arguments that have been heard many times-how hydraulic fracturing to stimulate oil and gas production may cause earthquakes, does cause obnoxious odors that drift over to residential neighborhoods, probably does cause cancer, birth defects, and miscarriages.
One man drew sighs from the audience as he described how both his first and second wives died from cancer that he believed had been caused by their living in proximity to the Inglewood oil field where fracking is being done.
"I strongly urge the council to ban fracking," said City Council candidate Christopher Patrick King. "Sacramento cannot be relied on to protect us."
King was referring to the state of California's lack of direct action on the fracking issue. Despite the introduction of state bills to ban the procedure and the adoption of SB4 which requires oil and gas companies to apply for a permit to conduct fracking, publicly disclose the fracking chemicals they use, notify neighbors before drilling, and monitor ground water and air quality, the state has not enacted an outright ban.
Critics believe that Governor Brown and the legislature are reluctant to take action due to possible lawsuits from the oil companies.
City Attorney Carol Schwab gave a detailed account of the history of attempts to control fracking in Culver City. The Inglewood Oil field, the center of contention regarding the process, is located 90 per cent in Los Angeles but 10 per cent of the acreage (above ground) is located in Culver City.
Since 2005, Culver City has investigated oil drilling safety standards. Although work with citizens groups led to the adoption of the Baldwin Hills Community Standards District (CSD), the standards do not protect the community from well stimulation procedures.
As a result, there have been several actions since 2005. In 2009, the city adopted a moratorium on fracking that was legally challenged by PXP (the company that ran the oil field) but the challenge was defeated by the city and the moratorium lasted until 2011.
In 2012 the council passed a resolution urging California to ban fracking until the state could persuade DOGGR (Department of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources) to enforce safety regulations.
The city is now working on a "specific plan" that is to be given to the council in May 2014. Relating to this, the March 24 meeting's discussion was to look at options the city has for controlling well stimulation procedures.
Jim Clarke and Andy Weissman had questions for Schwab, such as: the cost of a temporary moratorium (the 2009-2011 moratorium cost the city $375,000 with legal costs of close to two million) and what would the impact be on actual oil drilling (Schwab affirmed that it would only put a lid on proposed new drilling).
The council seemed to be united in wanting to draft language for some kind of moratorium that would initially last 45 days and could be extended in such as way that fracking would not be allowed for almost two years.
But Mayor Jeff Cooper said he wanted to wait until the city of Los Angeles has completed its study of fracking and drafted its own ordinance.
Los Angeles, on March 5, passed a moratorium on fracking that will be in effect until the city can verify that fracking will not harm public safety or compromise drinking water. The Los Angeles moratorium is currently being vetted by its city attorney.