EARTHWORKS

Why Earthworks is endorsing Californians Against Fracking

Jennifer Krill's avatar
By Jennifer Krill

June 3, 2013

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Last week, Californians Against Fracking launched with 100 organizations signed on, ranging from grassroots groups on the frontlines of the state's massive oil and gas industry to national organizations working in many states. Earthworks is proud to stand with them.

We have been working to hold the oil and gas industry accountable for its impacts on communities and the environment for 25 years. In that time, we have seen a sea change in the movement; we have gone from isolated community battles to a national movement (see Stop the Frack Attack). And now California is part of that movement.

Fracking is not new in California; the Western States Petroleum Association says that oil fracking has been happening in the state for over 50 years. But there is a new boom on the horizon; the Monterey Shale formation under eight counties in the state is estimated to hold 15 billion barrels of oil, recoverable with today's technology. That means enhanced oil recovery techniques, including acid matrix stimulation, steam injection, and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Because of Earthworks’ history with the issue, we know – as too many families in the oil and gas patches know – that fracking is not safe. We have done groundbreaking research showing that states don’t enforce their existing, often feeble, rules. We have done unprecedented health surveys of the impacts of oil and gas development on nearby communities. And in part because of the results of our research, and in part because no government agency previously examined these issues, we know that we don’t know enough to protect communities and the environment from this kind of development.

Three years ago, we partnered with the Environmental Working Group to co-sponsor the first bill California to regulate fracking. This year, there are 10 bills, including three calling for a moratorium on fracking. In coming years, we will have to work together to tackle other forms of Monterey Shale extraction such as using acid to break apart the shale much as fracking uses high-pressured fracking fluid.

Even if oil and natural gas could be cleanly extracted without harm to local communities – an iffy proposition at best -- for the sake of the global climate, we know that it is simply not possible to prevent catastrophic climate change and burn the fossil fuels that are currently booked as reserves by the coal, oil and gas industry. Only one-fifth of the total reserves can be used to stay below 2°C warming, according to new research from Sir Howard Stern and CarbonTracker.

Because of the combined community and climate risks, we have to leave the Monterey Shale oil in the ground. And that is why we endorse a ban on fracking in California. Given what we know now, we must put communities first by rejecting all fossil fuels and embracing a truly clean energy future based on conservation and renewables.

Because California is the 4th largest oil producer in America, communities on the Monterey Shale are already in harms’ way, impacted not only by fracking, but by all oil production. Communities on the fencelines of pipelines and refineries, including a shamefully disproportionate number of people of color, are suffering because of our dependence on oil. In addition to banning fracking, we must take action however we can to reduce the harm felt by oil-affected communities. At Earthworks, we see supporting a ban on fracking in California as part of a package of strong regulations to protect communities and the environment from the destructive impacts of extractive industries.

California offers tremendous promise. It has the highest number of oil-free electric cars on the road. It has high levels of bike and mass transit. And its people are investing in high speed rail. I am writing this blog from the Amtrak Capitol Corridor train en route to seeing Gasland 2 in Sacramento. Californians have a history of environmental commitment to be proud of, and to protect. I look forward to a clean energy future; we cannot afford to go backwards.

Tagged with: fracking, californians against fracking, california

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