Friday, July 22, 2016

Alameda Becomes Fifth California County to Ban Fracking



Li-hsia Wang, grandmother and pediatrician, speaks to the Board of Supervisors in favor of the fracking ban. Photo by Ella Teevan, Food and Water Watch.

Alameda Becomes Fifth California County to Ban Fracking
by Dan Bacher
In a state where Big Oil is the largest and most powerful corporate lobby and the governor is committed to the expansion of fracking, California anti-fracking activists have been forced to concentrate their efforts on banning the environmentally destructive oil extraction method on a county by county basis.  
On July 19 around 6:30 pm, Alameda County residents celebrated a historic victory  as the county became the first of nine in the San Francisco Bay Area to ban fracking, along with cyclic steam injection, acid fracturing, and other dangerous enhanced oil extraction methods.  
The County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed the ban, making Alameda County the fifth California county to ban fracking, according to Ella Teevan, Northern California Organizer at Food & Water Watch. The 5-0 decision follows the the ban on fracking adopted by Butte County in June, when voters passed the measured by a landslide 72 percent.
Eighty-five people opposing fracking attended the board meeting, although many left before the vote finally took place, Teevan said.
"I am deeply relieved that the Board of Supervisors passed the fracking ban," said Karen White, of Alameda County Against Fracking. "We've taken a step that will protect everyone in Alameda County, especially our children and grandchildren, from toxic chemicals."  
In a press release, Food & Water Watch and Alameda County Against Fracking said the landmark victory "represents a hard-fought campaign that stretched out over three years due to delays and opposition from the sole local oil operator, E&B Natural Resources."
The East Bay Times reported that "E&B Natural Resources in Livermore -- has said it could live with the proposed ban after it was modified earlier this year to soften sections the company said could disrupt its 30-barrel-a-day operation." (www.eastbaytimes.com/...)
The groups said the battle over the ban pitted E&B and local ranchers against residents concerned about fracking's impacts on local watersheds, jobs, East County wineries, air quality and climate. An oil leak last week at E&B's Livermore field led the county to fine the company for multiple violations, including improper disposal of hazardous waste. 
"We commend the Alameda County Supervisors for protecting their people's water and health by banning fracking," explained Teevan. "We are thrilled to celebrate this victory alongside all the grassroots organizations who worked so hard to get this ban passed." 
Teevan said local communities "frustrated by the inaction by Governor Brown and other leaders in Sacramento are looking to local supervisors to ban fracking or are taking the issue directly to voters."  
The local fracking measures are necessary because Jerry Brown, who poses as a "climate leader" at climate conferences around the globe, is one of the most oil industry-friendly California governors in recent history. He is a strong supporter of the expansion of fracking and other extreme oil extraction methods in California and the US, along with being an advocate of carbon trading and REDD programs that devastate indigenous communities across the globe.
These local initiatives are also necessary because of the power that the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), the most powerful corporate lobbying group in Sacramento, wields over the legislature. Virtually no bill is now able to make it through the Legislature unless it is approved by oil company leaders and Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association and former Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative to create so-called "marine protected areas" in Southern California.
For example, WSPA and the oil industry defeated bills to impose a moratorium on fracking in 2014 and 2015, along with stopping a bill to protect the Vandenberg State Marine Reserve from oil drilling in 2015. The oil lobby has spent $25 million lobbying during the 2015-16 legislative session. (www.oaklandmagazine.com/...)
Monterey County residents will vote on a fracking ban on Nov. 7.  Voters approved a ban in neighboring San Benito County in 2014, despite being outspent 14 to 1 by the oil industry, although a similar ban in Santa Barbara County was defeated in the same election. 
Teevan said Monterey residents face "equally fierce opposition" from Chevron and other oil companies operating there, but hopefully will prevail over Big Oil. 
"As we take the fight against fracking to Monterey, I feel safe going home at the end of the day knowing I'll never have to worry about toxic fracking chemicals in my drinking water," said Teevan, an Oakland resident. "The Alameda County Against Fracking coalition will now turn its attention to opposing oil expansion in the entire East Bay."
Besides Teevan, other people who spoke in support of the ban included Li-hsia Wang, grandmother & pediatrician, and Kiana Tsao of the Sierra Club.
"It's the only way to protect our environment from the destructive effects of fracking. Alameda County is a community, not just a commodity for the oil industry," said Tsao. 
The victory by anti-fracking activists comes on the heels of The Johns Hopkins study, published on July 18 in JAMA Internal Medicine, that found that people with asthma who live near bigger or larger numbers of active unconventional natural gas wells operated by the fracking industry in Pennsylvania are 1.5 to four times likelier to have asthma attacks than those who live farther away.   
"This study's findings confirm what we have known for years – that fracking is an inherently hazardous process that threatens human health and safety every day," said Wenonah Hauter, founder and Executive Director of Food & Water Watch.  "More than 17 million Americans live within a mile of a fracking site, and they are all at risk. Despite countless dollars spent by the oil and gas industry in numerous attempts to sway public opinion, the truth is winning out. As recent polling proves, the more Americans hear about fracking, the more they oppose it."
The study's senior author, Brian S. Schwartz, MD, MS, a professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the Bloomberg School, said, "We are concerned with the growing number of studies that have observed health effects associated with this industry. We believe it is time to take a more cautious approach to well development with an eye on environmental and public health impacts."
California is the third largest oil state in the nation and home to some of the most environmentally destructive policies in the country, challenging the largely undeserved "green leader" image that Brown administration officials constantly promote.  To read my investigative piece exposing Governor Jerry Brown's real environmental record, go to: www.dailykos.com/... 

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