What Becomes of Fracking Now?

Legislative Compromise leads environmentalists to call for moratorium

by Brian Leubitz

I’ve already discussed the compromises made on the fracking legislation, SB 4, and the fact that environmental groups are now calling for a moratorium. Here’s an NRDC letter requesting the moratorium.

“Governor Brown let a good bill go bad,” said Annie Notthoff, NRDC director of California advocacy. “Our leaders should put Californians’ health and safety first.  But these last-minute amendments to the fracking bill undercut critical safety measures. Governor Brown needs to right this wrong by heeding the call of a majority of Californians – impose a moratorium on fracking now until the risks are fully evaluated.”

With all that being said, an unusual alliance between environmentalists and powerful ag interests is growing to oppose fracking. Fracking presents a whole raft of concerns to agriculture, big and small. Besides the obvious sheer amount of water required, the risks of chemical pollution to groundwater could be disastrous to farmers. Back in June, the New York Times took a look at that relationship

By all accounts, oilmen and farmers – often shortened to “oil and ag” here – have coexisted peacefully for decades in this conservative, business friendly part of California about 110 miles northwest of Los Angeles. But oil’s push into new areas and its increasing reliance on fracking, which uses vast amounts of water and chemicals that critics say could contaminate groundwater, are testing that relationship and complicating the continuing debate over how to regulate fracking in California.

“As farmers, we’re very aware of the first 1,000 feet beneath us and the groundwater that is our lifeblood,” said Tom Frantz, a fourth-generation farmer here and a retired high school math teacher who now cultivates almonds. “We look to the future, and we really do want to keep our land and soil and water in good condition.”(NYT)

So, where does the Governor go from here. In the past, he has sounded optimistic about fracking for economic reasons, but always given a caveat of environmental safety.  As of yet, it would be hard to say that the caveat can really be answered yet. So, will he issue a temporary moratorium, or will he trust that the regulations under the weakened SB 4 will be enough?  I’m afraid I don’t have that answer, but a lot rides on the governor’s response.