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L.A. to Consider Temporary Ban on Fracking

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Detail of a sign at a fracking protest in New York City
Detail of a sign at a fracking protest in New York City Photo: Duffernutter/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Two Los Angeles City Council members introduced a motion today calling for a citywide halt to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking -- a process that uses a pressurized water mixture to release oil or natural gas from deep underground.

Council members Paul Koretz and Mike Bonin want their colleagues to back a moratorium on the practice, which entails injecting a water and chemical mixture into rock formations at high pressures, creating cracks to release natural gas or oil.

Critics of fracking link the activity to property damage, air and water pollution, and an increased risk of earthquakes.

The motion, which was referred to the City Council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee, asks the city attorney and planning officials to craft an ordinance that uses land use and zoning laws to ban "all activity associated with well stimulation, including, but not limited to, hydraulic fracturing, gravel packing, and acidizing, or any combination thereof, and the 1use of waste disposal injection wells" in the city.

The moratorium should be in place until energy production companies can assure the council impacts on the environment and the surrounding community will be mitigated and until state and federal laws regulating the activity are in place, according to the motion.

"Who in the world would think it would be a good idea to pump an unknown combination of potentially toxic chemicals right near our drinking water?" Bonin said.

"The fact that this is unregulated ... the fact that this is going on with so many questions unanswered is absolutely nuts and it's absolutely imperative that we take whatever steps we can to make sure this behavior comes to an end," he said.

In addition to fracking, Koretz called attention to a related process called "acidizing" that uses corrosive acids to melt away rock around oil deposits.

"Who here thinks dissolving rock is a good idea in earthquake-prone Los Angeles? Anybody? It's crazy," he said.

 
Koretz and Bonin were joined by local groups that have been monitoring fracking activity in Los Angeles oil fields, as well as representatives of Food and Water Watch and Physicians for Social Responsibility, to discuss the proposed ban and call on Gov. Jerry Brown to impose a statewide moratorium on fracking.

Several companies employ fracking and acidization in and around Los Angeles communities, city officials said.

Councilman Bernard Parks, whose district includes communities near oil fields, has also pushed for stronger language in a bill by Sen. Fran Pavley, D- Agoura Hills, that would control the as-yet-unregulated fracking activity in California.

The council on Tuesday unanimously approved a Parks resolution that backs an amended version of the bill with language requiring that chemicals used in the process -- such as formaldehyde, acetic acids, citric acids, and boric acids -- be disclosed even in cases when the mixture is subject to "trade secret" protections.

The proposed language would also require a scientific study be conducted to determine fracking's seismic impacts, environmental impact reviews on proposed fracking activity, full disclosure of community and employee health concerns, and a public input process for issuing permits to oil and natural gas companies.

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