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Council Takes First Step to Halt Fracking in L.A.

The council unanimously votes to have the city attorney write a new law that place a moratorium on the practice within city limits.

The Los Angeles City Council took the first steps to stopping hydraulic fracturing in the area. Patch file photo.
The Los Angeles City Council took the first steps to stopping hydraulic fracturing in the area. Patch file photo.

Originally posted at 12:32 p.m. Feb. 28, 2014. Updated to add more details.

By ELIZABETH HSING-HUEI CHOU

City News Service

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Los Angeles City Council today took the first step toward putting a stop to hydraulic fracturing and other similar drilling methods that energy companies use to extract petroleum and natural gas.

The council voted 10-0 to direct the city attorney to write an ordinance that would impose a moratorium on such activity at oil wells and fields within the city.

Council members say "unconventional" drilling practices -- often referred to as fracking, acidization and gravel-packing -- endanger the city's water supply and increase the risk of earthquakes.

Some oil production companies operating within the city employ acidization, which uses corrosive chemicals to dissolve rock formations around oil deposits, according to city officials.

If Los Angeles's moratorium ordinance is approved, it would stay in effect until oil companies can assure that the city's water supply is safe, that the practice does not otherwise harm the environment and the companies are fully disclosing the chemicals used, according to the motion by councilmen Paul Koretz and Mike Bonin.

The lifting of the moratorium also would hinge on whether state and federal laws are enacted to protect the public from any negative effects of the drilling activity.

The best known form of fracking is hydraulic fracturing, which involves injecting a pressurized water and chemical mixture into rock formations to create cracks that release natural gas or oil.

Oil companies are drilling deeper, injecting larger amounts of water and using additional or harsher chemicals in these newer, "extreme" techniques, said Brenna Norton of the Food & Water Watch, one of the environmental organizations that pushed for the moratorium.

Koretz said they are aiming to bring an ordinance back to the council floor in about two months.

City attorneys, working with the planning department, will take a look at ways to enforce the moratorium using the city's land use and zoning regulations, a Bonin aide said.

Bonin said a practice that involves "fracturing the earth" should not take place in an area prone to earthquakes.

"This is a technology that is experimental, that is wildly unregulated in the state," he said. "It is essential for us to say no to this in our neighborhoods and protect people who live work and play in the city of Los Angeles."

Restricting fracking "makes so much sense" that even Dallas -- a city known for having an oil-based economy -- has passed laws regulating it, Koretz said.

Hance V. Myers III, a vice president at Freeport-McMoRan Oil & Gas, a company with drilling operations in Los Angeles, said in a statement that the moratorium's "generic scope" could halt "even routine well maintenance activities needed to ensure the mechanical integrity of wells and maintain conventional oil production.

"Those consequences could go far beyond the resolution's stated intent and adversely impact thousands of jobs, substantial city revenue streams and tens of thousands of fixed-income royalty recipients," Myers said.

A representative of the oil industry at a committee hearing this week disputed claims that fracking is harmful.

Nick Ortiz of the Western States Petroleum Association said fracking has been "in use for over 60 years and has never been associated with any confirmed case of groundwater contamination or any other environmental harm."


Sean McCarthy March 01, 2014 at 05:21 PM
Okay. What about the Daily News article that states: "The top equity holding in fiscal year 2013 for the pension fund for civilian employees was the ExxonMobil stock, worth at least $115 million, records show. Exxon is also the second largest equity — worth $80 million — in the Los Angeles Fire and Police Pensions fund, records show. The two portfolios also own a combined $100 million in stock in Chevron, another company that practices fracking." POSTED: 02/27/14, 8:55 PM PST Are we saying that its okay for Los Angeles pension funds to make money off of fracking as long as it is done someplace else?
Brentwood Resident # 49 March 02, 2014 at 10:19 AM
@ Sean - the pension funds are not managed by politicians who vote to improve their political standing instead of voting based on facts and what is best for whatever constituents they represent. The pensions are managed by asset managers who are simply trying to achieve a return on investment at some agreed upon level of risk. Fracking is 60 years old, and proven safe if done correctly. Rather than ban fracking the LA City Council ought to make stringent and smart requirements in order to frack, especially given LA's water issues and earthquake situation. Tax it, force companies to provide their own water, have stringent penalties for any above ground leaks are a few examples. Banning it based on faulty facts and extremely low percentages of occurrence is just short sighted, naive and selfish.
Sean McCarthy March 02, 2014 at 01:51 PM
#49, Fair enough. I agree with everything you say.

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