There’s a big fight going on in the Golden State between the natural gas industry and the public over a process known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” which involves blasting toxic chemicals into the ground to draw up energy resources. Voters will be heading to the polls in just a few short days to decide whether or not to ban this harsh extraction method, which is actively polluting rivers and groundwater throughout California, despite regulations that prohibit such pollution.
The “Yes on Z: Protect Our Water – Ban Fracking” initiative contends that fracking is destroying the environment, allowing precious water resources that are already scarce in this part of the country to become contaminated with toxic, “acidizing” substances that are technically prohibited under the U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act. The proposal would ban the creation of new wastewater injection wells and ponds, as well as new oil and gas wells, throughout Monterey County in the Bay Area.
Advocates of the “Yes on Z” initiative point to more than 20 years of violations by the oil and natural gas industries with their use of current wells and wastewater sites, which have sidestepped state and federal law without consequence. By enacting the “Z” initiative, California’s precious drinking water and irrigation systems, the latter of which nourish much of our nation’s food supply, would be protected from further exploitation.
“This Initiative … [will] prohibit the use of any land within the County’s unincorporated area for hydraulic fracturing treatments, acid well stimulation treatments, and other types of well stimulation treatments, and tracks state law … in defining those terms,” the initiative states. “[It also] phases out existing, land uses in support of oil and gas wastewater injection and oil and gas wastewater impoundment … [and] prohibits drilling new oil and gas wells in the County’s unincorporated area.”
The full text of the “Protect Our Water” initiative is available here.
California lawmakers turn on constituents, allow gas and oil companies to rape the earth
All across the country, serious concerns about fracking have prompted oftentimes citizen-led opposition groups to push for a ban on the practice. Because the drilling process involves injecting equipment and chemicals deep within the ground, it’s almost a given that water supplies are going to be affected, not to mention the fact that the fracking process so disrupts the earth around it that many areas are now reporting unusual and constant seismic activity.
In California, the situation is even more of a concern because water has become increasingly scarce in recent years. Persistent drought conditions combined with a water-intensive agricultural climate – as well as the tens of millions of people that live in the world’s seventh-largest economy, all of whom need water to drink, to bathe in and to water their lawns – means that California needs all the clean water it can get.
But this hasn’t stopped lawmakers from essentially authorizing the injection of fluids and waste products that threaten groundwater supplies throughout the state. An Associated Press (AP) report issued last year says that federally protected aquifers in California have been abused “more than 2,500 times,” and that nearby water resources are at serious risk of exposure.
The California Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also admitted in a letter to the Governor’s office that there are at least 2,100 active oil wells throughout the state that are operating in non-exempt zones, meaning they’re illegal. All of these wells should be shut down in accordance with federal law, but they remain in operation illegally, because those responsible for enforcement have decided to do nothing.