Los Angeles — Acknowledging the pleas of their constituents, Los Angeles City Councilmembers voted today to make the L.A. fracking moratorium a priority to ensure the future wellbeing and safety of Los Angeles. The motion, introduced by Councilmembers Paul Koretz and Mike Bonin, will now head to the city attorney’s office to be written as a zoning ordinance, before it comes back to council for a final vote. Applause thundered through the council chamber as votes were tallied, from the hundreds packing the room in support.
“Today is the beginning of justice for all Los Angeles communities facing these wells,” said Monic Uriarte, a resident of one of the buildings of Esperanza Community Housing Corporation. Their campaign, People Not Pozos, bussed 50 residents to City Hall. “For years, the University Park neighborhood has been assaulted by Allenco Energy Corporation’s toxic emissions from their oil extraction activities. We were getting sick from the emissions, with health symptoms including spontaneous nose bleeding, headaches, asthma, and much more. No one should live in the shadow of an oil well. We will not tolerate urban oil wells in the densely populated neighborhoods of Los Angeles.”
All 10 councilmembers in attendance voted in favor of the motion: Council President Herb Wesson, Bob Blumenfield, Mike Bonin, Mitchell Englander, José Huizar, Paul Koretz, Tom LaBonge, Nury Martinez, Mitch O’Farrell and Bernard Parks.
Members of the Holman United Methodist Church in West Adams also flocked to City Hall, urging Council President Herb Wesson to stand with them, against newly drilled wells in their neighborhoods. Residents of West Adams were outraged when an unwelcome neighbor moved into the neighborhood in early January — Freeport McMoRan Oil & Gas. “Today the City Council of Los Angeles took a bold stand in support of public health and safety, supporting a moratorium on urban oil drilling through extraction and injection activities like fracking and acidization,” said Pastor Kelvin Sauls of Holman UMC. “The West Adams community is united around a preferred destination of permanent suspension of these destructive and destabilizing extraction and injection activities.”
Several organizations, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Center for Biological Diversity, have published studies connecting new oil and gas wells to an increase in toxic air pollution.
“We cannot continue to allow the safety of our neighborhoods to be jeopardized by dangerous drilling,” said Councilmember Mike Bonin, coauthor of the moratorium motion. “Neighborhoods come first and the L.A. moratorium is a simple, commonsense proposal to ensure that this ‘energy production by Dr. Strangelove’ doesn’t cause catastrophic earthquakes in Los Angeles.”
The U.S. Geological Survey has reported a link between earthquakes and fracking wastewater injection, including a 5.6-magnitude quake that struck Oklahoma in 2011. Where Oklahoma once only experienced a handful of earthquakes a year, the number spiked over 1,000 as gas extraction ramped up in the state. Residents in the Baldwin Hills have also experienced an increase in seismic activity from nearby oil and gas operations, claiming the frequent shaking has cracked the foundations of some of their homes.
In years of drought, residents and legislators alike are also concerned about fracking operations making competition for water even fiercer. “Each fracked well reportedly uses between one and five to 10 million gallons of water and turns it into what is, essentially, untreatable toxic waste. To put that into context: five million gallons of water is enough to last a family of four more than 35 years. From one fracked well. It’s staggering,” said Councilmember Paul Koretz, the motion’s coauthor. “Especially during a major drought, we cannot let our precious water be used for the benefit of a very few at the expense of the rest of us.”
“We congratulate the Los Angeles City Council for supporting the L.A. fracking moratorium motion, a strong step toward protecting the people of Los Angeles from severe health and environmental impacts,” said Adam Scow, California director of Food & Water Watch. “We urge the city attorney to stand by the motion’s strong language and set a powerful and positive example for other communities and Governor Brown, who should immediately enact a statewide moratorium to protect all Californians.” Food & Water Watch has organized support for the L.A. fracking moratorium since its introduction in September 2013.
Polls show that the majority of Californians are opposed to fracking. Since the launch of Californians Against Fracking in May 2013, more than 200,000 petitions have been signed urging Governor Brown to ban fracking in California. Farmers, environmental justice groups, public health advocates, local elected officials, students, celebrities and many others are calling on Governor Brown to halt fracking in California. More information can be found at californiansagainstfracking.org.
Alex Nagy, Food & Water Watch, 818-633-0865, [email protected]
Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.