Published: January 14, 2014
By: Earthworks et. al.
On behalf of the 50 undersigned organizations representing more than 2 million Californians, we are writing to request that you use your executive authority to place an immediate moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and other well stimulation activities. In November you stated on KQED’s Forum program that we should “let the science work” and that “[they] can’t start [fracking] until California’s rigorous study is conducted.” We couldn’t agree more, but unfortunately, fracking, acidizing and other forms of well stimulation are happening in California today.
We appreciate your leadership in combating climate change and moving California to a clean energy future. Your support for AB 32 and California’s other clean air and clean energy policies and programs are critically important as the state continues its implementation of these landmark laws. But ramping up dirty fossil fuel production through emerging drilling and well stimulation methods is at odds with California’s clean energy, climate, water and air quality goals. Expanding oil drilling is not a sustainable path for California or for our planet. An increasing body of evidence demonstrates that there are many reasons to be concerned about the effects of fracking and other well stimulation activities. Fracking involves injecting underground a cocktail of chemicals that can include toxics like hydrofluoric acid, formaldehyde and benzene, often through or adjacent to groundwater used for drinking and irrigation. Recently, offshore fracking has been identified in both state and federal waters, and unfortunately, some chemicals were discharged directly into the ocean. Hydraulic fracturing requires significant water resources and any major ramping up of these operations creates another competing demand for California’s precious water supplies. These processes produce large quantities of toxic wastewater that requires management and disposal. Fracking has been linked to induced earthquakes, a particular concern for California. Emissions from oil and gas facilities include toxic air contaminants, smog-forming pollutants and greenhouse gases. In addition, studies link fracking to adverse impacts on human health and damage to private property.
Despite these risks, fracking enjoys dangerous exemptions from critical federal environmental laws, including the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. No drilling practices, including fracking, should be exempted from our landmark federal environmental laws.
California has been at the forefront of environmental protection in many areas, but on fracking the state is still behind. It’s time for us to catch up to the other states that have acted to protect public health and the environment on this critical issue. New York’s Governor issued an executive order halting fracking in order to give state regulators time to fully evaluate the risks to public health and the environment, in order to determine how to protect against them. The states of Vermont, Maryland and North Carolina, and local governments in several states, have imposed moratoria or banned fracking entirely.
A majority of Californians agree that a moratorium on fracking is needed now. A poll by the University of Southern California and the Los Angeles Times showed that 58 percent of California voters want a moratorium on fracking, at least until an independent commission has studied fracking’s environmental impacts. The Public Policy Institute of California’s statewide study from September, 2013 found that 53 percent of Californians oppose increased use of fracking.
The combination of advanced drilling and well stimulation techniques has made it possible to produce oil and gas from unconventional formations that were previously inaccessible. Policies that open up California to expanded fossil fuel investments – in contrast to clean energy – take us in the wrong direction on climate change by locking us into decades of carbon-intensive resources.
Governor Brown, you have a strong clean energy record and you have the authority to make sure that Californians’ safety and public health come first. You can issue an executive order directing the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) to carry out its statutory duty to prevent oil and gas operations from harming human health, property, and natural resources.1 Continued fracking leaves the health of Californians and our precious natural resources unprotected. We urge you to impose an immediate moratorium on fracking, acidizing and other forms of well stimulation.