Battle Los Angeles: the Fight to Stop Urban Fracking

4 Jun

by Peter Alhous / New Scientist

Prepare for a fight over fracking for black gold in the Golden State.

Prepare for a fight over fracking for black gold in the Golden State. California is emerging as the new battleground over the fracking process – in which water, sand and chemical additives are injected into rock formations to release the hydrocarbons trapped within. It is a fight that could become a political lightning rod, as the sites earmarked for development include densely populated urban areas. So far the US controversy over fracking has been most intense in Pennsylvania, New York and other north-eastern states, where natural gas lies in shale formations in mostly rural areas. Fracking is also responsible for an oil boom that has transformed remote North Dakota – bringing prosperity for some, but raising concerns about pollution. The vast Monterey Shale, which lies beneath central and southern California, is estimated to contain almost 1900 million tonnes of recoverable oil – more than 2.5 times as large as the deposits in North Dakota. Many more people will be affected by its development, because oil fields lie near heavily populated areas of Los Angeles county, including Culver City, formerly the home of MGM Studios and still the base for Sony Pictures. Air-quality fears Last week, a coalition called Californians Against Fracking presented a petition with 100,000 signatures to governor Jerry Brown, asking him to ban fracking in the state. Meanwhile, a bill that would have imposed a moratorium until new regulations were in place was defeated in the state legislature. Campaigners vow to keep up the pressure on Brown and note that two other bills seeking to impose a moratorium, which stalled this year, could come back for consideration in January. While protests in the north-east US have focused on fears about contamination of water supplies, in California concerns about volatile chemicals released into the atmosphere may come to the fore. "These areas already have some of the worst air quality in the country," says Kassie Siegel of the San Francisco branch of the Center for Biological Diversity, which is part of Californians Against Fracking. Correction: When this article was first published on 4 June 2013, we somewhat overstated the size of the Monteray Shale deposits. This has now been corrected. print send If you would like to reuse any content from New Scientist, either in print or online, please contact the syndication department first for permission. New Scientist does not own rights to photos, but there are a variety of licensing options available for use of articles and graphics we own the copyright to. Have your say Only subscribers may leave comments on this article. Please log in. email: password: Remember me   Only personal subscribers may leave comments on this article Subscribe now to comment. All comments should respect the New Scientist House Rules. If you think a particular comment breaks these rules then please use the "Report" link in that comment to report it to us. If you are having a technical problem posting a comment, please contact technical support. print send Don't frack with Californians (Image: Center for Biological Diversity) Don't frack with Californians (Image: Center for Biological Diversity)

Don’t frack with Californians (Image: Center for Biological Diversity)

California is emerging as the new battleground over the fracking process – in which water, sand and chemical additives are injected into rock formations to release the hydrocarbons trapped within. It is a fight that could become a political lightning rod, as the sites earmarked for development include densely populated urban areas.

So far the US controversy over fracking has been most intense in Pennsylvania, New York and other north-eastern states, where natural gas lies in shale formations in mostly rural areas.

Fracking is also responsible for an oil boom that has transformed remote North Dakota – bringing prosperity for some, but raising concerns about pollution.

The vast Monterey Shale, which lies beneath central and southern California, is estimated to contain almost 1900 million tonnes of recoverable oil – more than 2.5 times as large as the deposits in North Dakota. Many more people will be affected by its development, because oil fields lie near heavily populated areas of Los Angeles county, including Culver City, formerly the home of MGM Studios and still the base for Sony Pictures.

Air-quality fears

Last week, a coalition called Californians Against Fracking presented a petition with 100,000 signatures to governor Jerry Brown, asking him to ban fracking in the state. Meanwhile, a bill that would have imposed a moratorium until new regulations were in place was defeated in the state legislature.

Campaigners vow to keep up the pressure on Brown and note that two other bills seeking to impose a moratorium, which stalled this year, could come back for consideration in January.

While protests in the north-east US have focused on fears about contamination of water supplies, in California concerns about volatile chemicals released into the atmosphere may come to the fore.

“These areas already have some of the worst air quality in the country,” says Kassie Siegel of the San Francisco branch of the Center for Biological Diversity, which is part of Californians Against Fracking.

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