Last year, environmental peril seemed imminent as legislation was passed greenlighting fracking in California. On Feb. 20 this year, state senators Holly Mitchell, D.-Los Angeles, and Mark Leno, D.-San Francisco, took the first step toward undoing some of that damage. They introduced the bill SB 1132, which if passed would impose a moratorium on the natural gas drilling practice in LA.
Specifically, it would halt all forms of "extreme well stimulation," including fracking, and require that an independent multi-agency study be conducted exploring the economic, environmental, and health impacts of such drilling operations. The senators face an uphill battle in the midst of California Gov. Jerry Brown's push for not only continuing, but expanding fracking operations throughout the state. Brown's stance is seen as particularly frustrating given his prior pro-environment record.
Last year, a previous fracking moratorium bill failed to pass through the legislature due to intense lobbying by the Western States Petroleum Association, which is the most powerful corporate lobbying organization in southern California, and also by various oil corporations. But the senators are not prepared to let those companies sicken the population of Los Angeles.
"There are a million Angelenos that live within a five-mile radius of the largest urban oil field in the country," Mitchell remarked, referencing the 1,000-acre Inglewood Oil Field. "In my district, vulnerable neighborhoods lie adjacent to drilling operations whose practices go largely unregulated. Complaints that residents are exposed to hazardous chemicals and toxic pollutants that cause all kinds of health symptoms have been ignored. When industrial operations like fracking disproportionately impact minority communities, environmental justice has been breached and needs to be restored. SB 1132 will do that."
The senators noted that of the 750 chemicals used in fracking, at least 29 of them have been confirmed to be very harmful to human health. These include hydrofluoric acid and benzene, which have been linked to cancer, respiratory issues and developmental and neurological problems. Yet many drilling operations risk leaking these contaminants into public drinking water.
Leno said, "We are currently allowing fracking operations to expand in California despite the potential consequences on our water supply, including the potential for drinking contaminated water and the generation of billions of barrels of polluted water."
The Center for Biological Diversity issued a statement in agreement with this assessment, noting, "Senate Bill SB 1132 seeks to safeguard California's water supply from overuse and contamination from fracking as the state struggles with a devastating drought. A fracking halt is what's needed, and what a majority of Californians support. The water used to frack wells is so contaminated that it must be removed from the hydrological cycle. Fracking chemicals can get into and pollute rivers, streams, and aquifers. And fracking pollution contributes to climate change, which is worsening droughts in many areas."
Among the affected Angelenos speaking out against this pollution is Los Angeles resident Michelle Kennedy, who believes her son's asthma has worsened due to the oil and gas wells pumping in her neighborhood. She noted she often detects an awful smell in the air while walking to her car, and was recently disturbed to hear that fracking chemicals were being used less than a mile from her home.
The Center for Biological Diversity's Hollin Kretzmann said, "Every Californian deserves to know that oil and gas companies are pumping dangerous chemicals into our air and water, but disclosure alone won't protect our hearts and lungs. The best way to shield ourselves from this pollution is to halt fracking. We need Gov. Brown and other state lawmakers to put public health ahead of petroleum industry profits and shut these dirty operations down."