L.A. Fracking Moratorium Advances

By Published On: February 28, 2014

A key Los Angeles City Council committee Feb. 25 approved halting unconventional oil and gas well drilling to the cheers of an overflow crowd at city hall. A vote on the moratorium by the full council is expected today. “We’re asking that there be a moratorium on all unconventional drilling here in Los Angeles,” councilmember Mike Bonin told the Planning & Land Use Committee. Bonin, a sponsor of the moratorium, said it would halt all hydraulic fracturing, “acidizing,” and gravel packing of oil and gas wells within the city. Valley Industry & Commerce Association legislative affairs manager Adriana Fernandez said forthcoming state regulations under SB 4 make the moratorium unnecessary and may even preempt local regulations. Western States Petroleum Association representative Nick Ortiz maintained unconventional drilling is “safe and proven.” However, residents and environmentalists complained of odors, property devaluation, and settling around old oil wells being reworked with unconventional techniques. The city sits over seven separate oil fields that were major producers beginning in the 1890s. The Los Angeles field, for instance, where just one well remains in production, once had more than 1,200 wells. With unconventional techniques now readily available, Koretz said drillers are beginning to go over old fields to recover “every last drop” of oil. The amount left is substantial. The U.S. Geological Survey estimated in 2012 the oil fields in the Los Angeles Basin hold 3.2 billion barrels of recoverable oil. USGS notes that given the highly urbanized setting around the fields, “unrestricted development is hard to envision.” Council members said that until unconventional drilling is proven safe and it’s shown there is an adequate water supply, the risks of air and water pollution and generating earthquakes in the seismically active area are too great to risk.

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