Frowning on Fracking

blog frackingSanta Cruzans speak up about offshore fracking at Coastal Commission meeting

With the new knowledge that oil companies are using controversial fracking methods off the coast of Southern California to extract fossil fuels, the state’s Coastal Commission will begin an investigation on the practice and determine how they can regulate it. 

About 30 people attended the commission’s Thursday, Aug. 15 meeting at the Santa Cruz County building to voice their concerns and call the state into action.

Oil companies are using fracking, which injects highly pressurized water mixed with sand proppants and hazardous but unknown chemicals into the ground to extract fossil fuels, and predominantly avoiding government regulation through trade secret loopholes, says Brian Segee, an attorney with Environmental Defense Center in Santa Barbara, who addressed the commission about its dangers.

He says fracking has been occurring in California for decades but that there is little knowledge about the chemicals’ detrimental effects on the environment.

“Fracking is characterized by the fundamental lack of knowledge available,” Segee says.

Shooting the water down into the ground, where it opens up cracks that can contain resources, can also destroy geological formations, he says.

Off the coast of Santa Barbara, a number of oil platforms are using fracking methods, but due to the lack of state regulation, environmental agencies can do little stop it, nor do they even know all of the locations where it is taking place, says Emily Jeffers, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity in San Francisco who also spoke at the meeting.

Jeffers says the California Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) does not track, monitor or regulate fracking practices, and there is no compliance with national or environmental standards.

“At the state level,” she says, “it’s just totally hands off.”

Another major concern is that the oil platforms doing the fracking produce hazardous contaminated water waste, which they in turn are discharging directly into the ocean, Segee says.

“It’s causing long-lasting contamination in the sediments,” he says.

“The ocean is a big place, so the notion is often, ‘dilution is the solution to pollution,’” he goes on. “But the studies [on fracking] are limited, and we’re concerned there’s real damage being done.”

Last year, Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) introduced Senate Bill SB 4, which would help to regulate hydraulic fracking and the information oil companies have to disclose about the activity.

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