California Senate Fails to Pass Fracking Moratorium- Kern County Residents Most At Risk
On Thursday, May 29, 2014 the California Senate failed to pass SB 1132 (Mitchell/Leno) which would have put a temporary moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, acidizing and other forms of oil and gas well stimulation methods. The measure lost by a narrow margin, despite recent polling that 68% of Californians support a time out on fracking. Additionally, the federal government has recently downgraded the estimated amount of recoverable oil in the Monterey Shale by 96%, dispelling the myth that fracking will lead to an oil boom in California.
The people with the most to lose after the failure of SB 1132 are the communities of Kern County, where an estimated 80% of California's fracking and other oil drilling occurs. At least 22 different communities lie within 5 miles of oil and gas drilling in Kern County, including many directly adjacent to and surrounded by drilling operations, exposing thousands of residents to health threatening air pollution that has been linked to low birth weights, respiratory illness and cancer.
"Kern County already experiences some of the worst water and air quality in the country, with hundreds of thousands of Central Valley residents lacking access to reliably clean drinking water and an asthma rate three times the national average," said Bakersfield resident and Clean Water Action organizer Rosanna Esparza. "It's time that our elected officials stand up for the health of the San Joaquin Valley. This vote shows that they continue to fail at protecting our most at-risk communities."
According to Andrew Grinberg, Clean Water Action’s oil and gas program manager, “Over 90% of fracked and acidized wells in Kern County are within 1 mile of a surface waterway, threatening the region's and entire state's already depleted water supply.” In addition, fracking commonly utilizes high volumes of chemicals, many of which are known to cause cancer and harm health and have the process has been linked to water contamination in numerous cases across the country.
"In the midst of an extreme drought, allowing the oil industry to continue to threaten our water supply makes no sense, " said Grinberg. "Fracking has damaged water resources in states across the country. Today's vote shows that some California Legislators are not learning from the mistakes of Pennsylvania, Colorado and Texas, where drinking and irrigation water sources have been destroyed and water supply depleted from unchecked fracking."
Although the Legislature failed to pass a moratorium, Governor Brown still has the authority to implement and immediate moratorium, an act that would be in line with the Democratic Party platform and the wishes of more than two thirds of Californians.