Critical Fracking Vote This Week, On Heels of Stunning News

May 23, 2014
By Jenesse Miller

The movement to impose a moratorium on fracking in California is gaining steam, as the bill goes to the state Senate floor for a vote next week.

(NOTE: This blog has been updated since the original post).

That wasn't the only big news this week. In a stunning reversal, federal energy authorities with the U.S. Energy Information Administration are now estimating that there is 96% less recoverable oil than was previously estimated buried in California's Monterey Shale.

This estimate blows a huge hole in Big Oil’s claim that the Monterey Shale is a national "black gold mine" of oil, and that we have no choice but to frack California despite the growing list of risks to our precious water supplies, our health and our environment.

According to the Los Angeles Times,

“The new estimate, expected to be released publicly next month, is a blow to the nation's oil future and to projections that an oil boom would bring as many as 2.8 million new jobs to California and boost tax revenue by $24.6 billion annually.”

In 2011, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) published a report by INTEK Inc. which stated that California’s Monterey Formation contained 15.4 billion barrels of technically recoverable tight oil (also called “shale oil”) — 64% of the entire estimated tight oil resource in the continental US at that time.

The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) and other industry groups intent on the development of the Monterey Shale have used that estimate to argue there isn’t a choice: they insist we have to frack California to get at this “goldmine” of recoverable oil.

Now that their claims have been deflated, we need a moratorium on this risky practice now more than ever.

Why? Because communities throughout California are still at risk. Regardless of whether the estimate will be downgraded yet again, unconventional drilling including fracking and acidizing is already taking place in California, in multiple counties, and yes, in the Monterey Shale. Research continues to be published that shows current drilling operations have the potential to cause harm to public health, communities, water, and air quality. And the oil industry, at least outwardly, remains unfazed by the news:

A spokesman for the oil industry expressed optimism that new techniques will eventually open up the Monterey formation. "We have a lot of confidence in the intelligence and skill of our engineers and geologists to find ways to adapt," said Tupper Hull, spokesman for the Western States Petroleum Assn. "As the technologies change, the production rates could also change dramatically."

Big Oil is going to continue to spin this news and present things in a way that benefits them. But they can't be trusted.

It’s important that we have accurate output estimates that help elected officials examine the cost/benefit analysis of whether we proceed with risky drilling methods. But it's up to our elected officials to weigh those risks and ultimately make a decision that benefits California’s families and natural resources – and it is up to California citizens to continue to demand a moratorium on fracking in California.

Switching gears, now, to an update on the proposed moratorium on fracking in California, SB 1132.

The bill was heard in Senate Appropriations on May 19th. A very long line of people were there to testify in support of the bill. The oil companies' representatives were there too, repeating their opposition, but they looked small next to the huge outpouring from environmental activists, Latino business leaders, moms, dads, grandparents, Native American tribe representatives, senior citizens, students, public health and safety advocates, and everyday citizens.

Some supporters traveled by train for hours in order to have their 30 seconds at the podium and tell the members of the Committee why they should vote to push the “pause” button on fracking California. The bill's author, Holly Mitchell, recognized the outpouring of support, and for a brief moment, the usually somber committee room was filled with enthusiastic applause.

The bill was then sent to the suspense file, which meant a final determination of its fate would be made in just a few days. Then, on Friday May 23, the committee voted to move the bill to the full floor of the Senate.

Now it's your turn.

Please contact your State Senator and ask them to support this bill. Californians concerned about fracking's risks to our health, our water, our air and our safety have turned out in full force at every step of this bill's progress. We need advocates for our environment to turn up one more time and tell your State Senator you expect them to represent you, not the oil companies, and vote yes on SB 1132.

If they don't hear us, the Senate floor vote could be the final vote on the fracking moratorium this year. But if they hear from enough of us, and the bill moves off of suspense, it will move on to the Assembly.

Let's make it happen. California's future depends on all of us fighting back against fracking and other risky drilling practices.



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