The debate about hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a procedure that involves drilling thousands of feet below the earth's surface to extract oil and gas, has come to Los Angeles.
A resolution introduced Wednesday calls on Gov. Jerry Brown and California regulators to impose a moratorium on fracking until there is a "determination that such processes are safe for public health, for the Los Angeles water supply and for the environment."
Concerns about lack of transparency regarding fracking methods in the state prompted the resolution drafted by city councilmen Paul Koretz, Herb Wesson and Bernard Parks. California does not have any regulations on fracking.
"We've been looking into this for several months to see how fracking might affect Los Angeles," said Andy Schrader, Deputy of Environmental Affairs & Sustainability for council member Koretz. "There's transparency in other states, yet the Department of Water and Power, one of the fiercest defenders of Los Angeles' water supply, can't find out anything about it."
In California the fracking procedure is often used to extract oil. Supporters of energy independence argue fracking allows for tapping into the country's oil reserves and reduces dependence on foreign supplies. They also point to the United States' large reserves of shale gas which make up more than 30 percent of the country's natural gas supplies. A report released this week even projected that jobs in the industry, particularly to extract shale gas, are expected to grow by 2015.
However, environmentalists believe hydraulic fracturing may not be worth the risks involved unless it is transparent and deemed safe, raising concerns about contaminated drinking water and the fracking process' release of harmful pollutants in the air. They also note that fracking has been linked to earthquakes -- albeit infrequent, minor earthquakes.
Lawmakers have argued that the state is long overdue for fracking regulations and suggest federal exemptions have given oil companies a pass.
"There have been federal exemptions -- exemptions to federal laws like the Safe Drinking Water Act," said Schrader. "This seems like exactly the type of process that needs to be regulated. If the federal government doesn't protect drinking water then we need to."
"There's a big rush to drill because the EPA is coming up with regulations in 2015 and those regulations will be for new wells. So there's a huge rush to drill before that. Our resolution wants to nip that in the bud. "
The oil industry argues the process of hydraulic fracturing has been used safely in California for decades.