California’s Thirsty Almond Acreage Increased by 60,000 Acres in 2015!

by Dan Bacher, Daily KOS

As Governor Jerry Brown urged Californians to “Save Our Water” by taking shorter showers and letting our lawns turn brown, corporate agribusiness continued to expand its acreage in water-intensive almond trees in the Central Valley.

California’s 2015 almond acreage is estimated at 1,110,000 acres, up 6 percent from the 2014 revised acreage of 1,050,000, according to a California Department of Food and Agriculture report released today.

That’s up 60,000 acres from 2014’s estimated acreage. “Of the total acreage for 2015, 890,000 acres were bearing and 220,000 acres were non-bearing. Preliminary bearing acreage for 2016 was estimated at 900,000 acres,” the report stated.

Kern, Fresno, Stanislaus, Merced and Madera—all located in the San Joaquin Valley—were the leading counties in almond production. These five counties had 73 percent of the total bearing acreage. Nonpareil continued to be the leading variety, followed by Monterey, Butte, Carmel, and Padre.

“This acreage, planted in Drought Year Four, commits about 180,000 AF/year to those trees, a constant burden on groundwater basins and our political system for every one of the next twenty-five years,” commented onthepublicrecord.org. “Had the Brown administration banned new permanent crops in basins with declining groundwater levels, that demand might be in annual crops, flexible in times of high climate variability.”

The almond acreage was estimated at 870,000 acres at the beginning of the drought, according to onthepublicrecord.org. That means that the total almond acreage in California increased by 240,000 acres during the drought!

Representatives of fishing groups, environmental organizations and Indian Tribes have criticized the expansion of acreage for almonds, a water-intensive crop, at a time when Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, and other fish populations are being driven closer and closer to extinction by poor water management by the state and federal governments—and when urban users are mandated to cut back on water use by 25 percent.

Last March, Stewart Resnick, Beverly Hills billionaire and the largest tree fruit grower in the world, revealed his efforts to expand pistachio, almond, and walnut acreage during the drought at the annual pistachio conference hosted by Paramount Farms.

During the event covered by the Western Farm Press, Resnick gloated about the increase in his nut acreage over the previous ten years, including an 118 percent increase for pistachios, 47 percent increase for almonds, and 30 percent increase for walnuts.

Resnick and his wife, Lynda, are among the most avid proponents of Governor Jerry Brown’s California Water Fix, the new name for the Delta Tunnels, potentially the most environmentally destructive public works project in California history. The tunnels will divert water from the Sacramento River for export to agribusiness corporations on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley, Southern California water companies, and oil companies conducting fracking and other extreme oil extraction methods in Kern County.

See this story for more information about the Resnicks and their influence over the UC system and California politics.

source: http://www.dailykos.com/stories/2016/4/27/1520853/-California-s-Thirsty-Almond-Acreage-Increased-by-60-000-acres-in-2015

Agencies admit failing to protect water sources from fuel pollution

(By Julie Cart crossposted from Los Angeles Times) The agencies charged with overseeing oil production and protecting California’s ever-dwindling water sources from the industry’s pollution all fell down on the job, one state official told a panel of peeved lawmakers Tuesday.

During a testy two-hour oversight hearing, officials from the California Department of Conservation, the department’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources and the state Water Resources Control Board promised senators a top-down overhaul of their regulation of the disposal of oil field wastewater. Continue reading

With Drought, New Scrutiny Over Fracking’s Water Use

KQED reports that California’s historic drought and shrinking water supplies are putting a spotlight on hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” and its thirst for freshwater. In other states, the controversial technique is a heavy water consumer, using millions of gallons of freshwater to extract oil or gas from each well.

In California, fracking uses less water on average than in other states, according to industry data. But that trend is shifting, as oil companies make a play for the Monterey Shale, the largest untapped oil resource in the country.

Other key points from the article:

  • Farmers near Bakersfield are concerned about orchards in areas to be opened up to fracking. While farmers fallow land and pull up orchards, they’re asking whether there’s enough water to go around.
  • Monterey Shale holds what could be the largest oil resource in the country: 13.7 billion barrels according to one estimate but it is hard to extract
  • Oil industry groups argue that fracking in California currently uses relatively little water compared to other users such as agriculture but fracking in Monterrey Shale will probably use a lot more water.
  • There will be a localized impact from fracking, because it happens in some of the most water-stressed parts of the state.
  • In the Rose oil field near Wasco, fracking uses from half a million to a million gallons of water per well, substantially more than other oil fields.
  • According to permits filed for the first time this year under new state regulations, oil companies are planning about 250 new fracking jobs that would draw water mostly from local water districts.
  • State Senator Fran Pavley introduced a bill, SB 1281, that would require oil companies to disclose the amounts of water they use in all operations, not just fracking.

“If we combine the fracking and the drought question together, it’s just making a bad situation worse,” says Jay Famiglietti, a hydrologist and professor at UC Irvine.

Full article can be read here: http://blogs.kqed.org/science/audio/with-drought-new-scrutiny-over-frackings-water-use/

Hundreds of Tribal representatives and water activists join huge rally to oppose fracking

Based on an original article by Dan Bacher

Hundreds of indigenous people from California and across the country as well as water activists involved in fighting the Delta Water and other water infrastructure projects gathered with a crowd of over 4000 activists at the State Capitol in Sacramento on March 15 to send a clear message to Governor Jerry Brown: ban fracking, an environmentally destructive oil extraction practice that pollutes groundwater, rivers and the oceans.

Many of the speakers at the mass protest emphasized the direct connection between fracking and the Shasta Dam raise and the Governor’s peripheral tunnels plan, which will provide water for fracking.

“Brown is setting aside all the environmental rules in order to ship water south,” said Chook Chook Hillman, a member of the Karuk Tribe Hillman. “Fracking will take good water, put chemicals in it and then it will come out toxic forever. Fracking will affect all us – fracking is a terrible use of water, water that could be used for people and fish.”

Hillman, who held a banner proclaiming, “Stop Fracking Around – Undam the Klamath,” attended the protest with other members of Klamath Justice Coalition, a group that has organized many direct action protests to remove the Klamath dams and stop the Westlands Water District legal attempt to raid Trinity River water.

Chief Carleen Audrey Sisk, Tribal Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu, who led the opening ceremony and prayer, took aim at the Governor’s peripheral tunnels plan – the “Brown Water Plan,” as she calls it.

She emphasized, “Here at the Capitol a lot of Brown water planning is going on. This water is our medicine – it comes from the sacred places where the medicine comes from. We struggle to continue to take care of our waters – there is no other place we can go to practice our religion.”

The anti-fracking protest, organized by the Californians Against Fracking, featured diverse speakers including environmental justice advocates, farmers, student activists and other groups opposed to fracking. Hundreds of organizations, ranging from grassroots groups to large NGOs, helped to organized the rally.

“Fracking” is a method of oil and gas production that involves blasting millions of gallons of water, mixed with sand and toxic chemicals, under high pressure deep into the earth to extract oil and gas but it can also pollute local air, water, and endanger the lives of people and wildlife, according to Corine Fairbanks, director of American Indian Movement Southern California Chapter.

Barbara Daly and Nancy Price in Sacramento at Anti-fracking protest on March 15

Barbara Daly and Nancy Price in Sacramento at Anti-fracking protest on March 15

Fracking exposes people to radioactivity and numerous toxic chemicals such as lead, arsenic, methanol, and benzene. The chemicals used in fracking have been linked to infertility, birth defects and cancer. The pollution to California groundwater supplies, rivers and the Delta that will result from fracking and acidization could devastate already imperiled populations of Central Valley Chinook salmon, steelhead, Delta smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species.

Fracking has been documented in 10 California counties — Colusa, Glenn, Kern, Monterey, Sacramento, Santa Barbara, Sutter, Kings and Ventura. Oil companies have also fracked offshore wells in the ocean near California’s coast, from Seal Beach to the Santa Barbara Channel. Fracking may have been used elsewhere in California, since state officials have monitored neither or tracked the practice until recently, according to Fairbanks.

After the rally was over Carleen Sisk led a group of Winnemem Wintu and their supporters down to the Sacramento River at Miller Park take the “Water Challenge” to defend waters, rivers and fish population. Around 20 people cautiously waded into and then swam in the muddy waters.

“When we accept the winter water challenge and go down to our rivers, springs, lakes and oceans to make a heartfelt commitment and challenge others to do the same it makes the waters happy,” she said. “All over California the water ways are waking up with good blessings! Now accept the challenge to take the message you got to the Capitol and tell the world…no fracking chance will your Brown Water Plan destroy our sacred waters.”

Gary Mulcahy, a member of the Winnemen Wintu Tribe, stressed the need to educate and mobilise popular anger against all aspects of California water management policies:

“It is interesting how fracking would bring out 4,000 to 5,000 people to a demonstration because this fracking, one way or the other, will hurt the water supply,” he noted. “But when you talk about agribusiness taking water drip by drip and drop by drop by building canals, raising dams or building more dams supposed to supply more water than the system can deliver in the first place, only a few voices are heard like a candle in the darkness.”

“Fracking involves your water from north to south, from east to west, water that is ultimately controlled by big corporations, including agribusiness and oil companies. If fracking is bad, then so is raising dams, building new dams and building the tunnels,” he concluded.

Hopefully, this highly successful rally will be followed by even bigger rallies and demonstrations in Sacramento and throughout the state opposing fracking, the peripheral tunnels, the Shasta Dam raise and the building of new dams.

Adam Scow of Food and Water Watch, one of the co-founders of Californians Against Fracking, said anti-fracking activists will keep building the movement to put pressure on Brown to ban fracking.

“Water is a human right and fracking is a violation of that human right, as are the twin tunnels,” Scow concluded.

For more information, go to: http://www.californiansagainstfracking.org

Former advisors to Gov. Brown request fracking ban

Republished from SPCR. By Sharon McNary | November 21st, 2013

A group of  27 former campaign and administration advisors to Gov. Jerry Brown released a letter Thursday asking him to ban the unconventional oil extraction method known as fracking until more is known about its effects on global warming, air and water pollution. Continue reading

Acid joins water as contaminants in planned fracking boom

An article by David Baker in the San Francisco Chronicle, Acidizing could rival fracking in the Monterrey Shale, has pointed to a growing practice of using powerful acids to dissolve rock and free petroleum within. In addition to the high volume of water that is frequently used, it poses yet another dangerous risk to groundwater from contamination. As usual the companies refuse to reveal what acids are used and how. Continue reading

Peripheral tunnels will provide water for fracking

(Edited version of article by Dan Bacher) There is growing concern that one of the key driving factors behind the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) is the water that it will provide for expanding fracking operations.

Certainly the oil industry has been spending plenty of money in Sacramento to push for expansion of oil drilling and fracking across California. The Western States Petroleum Association spent the most on lobbying in Sacramento in the first six months of 2013 of any interest group, according to quarterly documents released by the California Secretary of State. The association spent $1,023,069.78 in the first quarter and $1,285,720.17 in the second quarter, a total of $2,308,789.95, to lobby legislators and other state officials. They have also been one of the biggest contributors to Governor Brown, supporting his 2014 campaign and his Proposition 20 campaign.

These contributions include the following: Aera Energy (Exxon-related), $125,000; Berry Petroleum, Denver, $35,000;  Breitburn Operating, Houston, $21,250; CA State Pipe Trades Council (usually the pipeline union supports Big Oil), $100,000; Conoco Phillips, $25,000; E & B Natural Resources Management, Bakersfield, $20,000; MacPherson Oil Co., $50,000; Naftex, $10,000; Occidental Petroleum, $500,000; Plains Exploration & Production, $100,000; SoCal Pipe Trades Council, $125,000; Signal Hill Petroleum, $10,000;  Vaquero Energy, $35,000; Venoco, $25,000

“A state senator has told me that Brown has cut a deal with the oil companies – he’ll push fracking in exchange for campaign contributions to his 2012 Proposition 30 and his 2014 reelected,” said RL Miller in her recent article on Daily Kos.

It may explain in part why Governor Jerry Brown, is currently fast-tracking the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) as it will benefit both corporate agribusiness and oil companies seeking to expand fracking operations. Against these interests the  potential extinction of Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species does not swing many votes.

Nobody knows exactly how much water is used specifically for fracking in California now, since reporting by the oil companies on water utilized in fracking is voluntary. One thing is for certain – oil companies use big quantities of water in their current oil drilling operations in Kern County. Much of this water this comes through the State Water Project’s California Aqueduct and the Central Valley Water Project’s Delta-Mendota Canal, the canals that will export the water diverted through the tunnels.

“In the time since steamflooding was pioneered here in the fields of Kern County in the 1960s, oil companies statewide have pumped roughly 2.8 trillion gallons of fresh water—or, in the parlance of agriculture, nearly 9 million acre-feet—underground in pursuit of the region’s tarry oil,” according to Jeremy Miller’s 2011 investigative piece, “The Colonization of Kern County,” in Orion Magazine. “Essentially, enough water has been injected into the oil fields here over the last forty years to create a lake one foot deep covering more than thirteen thousand square miles—nearly twice the surface area of Lake Ontario.”

Because of the enormous influence exerted by the group and the oil companies themselves in the Capitol, all but one bill to regulate or ban fracking was defeated in the Legislature this year. The only bill that passed through the Legislature was the weak bill to “regulate” fracking sponsored by State Senator Fran Pavley.

The top 20 interest groups who spent the most money in the first six months included labor unions, the California Chamber of Commerce, Chevron and health care corporations. (http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/)

Ocean fracking expanding

The latest report on spending on lobbying emerged as the Associated Press revealed that companies prospecting for oil off California’s coast have used the controversial practice of fracking (hydraulic fracturing) on at least a dozen occasions to force open cracks beneath the seabed.

Now regulators are investigating whether the environmentally destructive practice, one that threatens fish and wildlife populations in the state’s marine waters, should require a separate permit and be subject to stricter environmental review.

“Hundreds of pages of federal documents released by the government to The Associated Press and advocacy groups through the Freedom of Information Act show regulators have permitted fracking in the Pacific Ocean at least 12 times since the late 1990s, and have recently approved a new project,” wrote AP reporters Jason Dearen and Alicia Chang.

“Companies are doing the offshore fracking — which involves pumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of salt water, sand and chemicals into undersea shale and sand formations — to stimulate old existing wells into new oil production,” they said.

“Federal regulators thus far have exempted the chemical fluids used in offshore fracking from the nation’s clean water laws, allowing companies to release fracking fluid into the sea without filing a separate environmental impact report or statement looking at the possible effects. That exemption was affirmed this year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to the internal emails reviewed by the AP,” Dearen and Chang stated.

Big oil lobbyist oversaw creation of marine protected areas

Inexplicably missing from the mainstream media and even most “alternative” media reports on this issue is any mention of one of the biggest environmental scandals of the past decade – the alarming fact that Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association, CHAIRED the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Blue Ribbon Task Force that created the alleged “marine protected areas” that went into effect in Southern California waters in January 2012. She also served on the task forces to create “marine protected areas” on the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast.

Grassroots environmentalists, Tribal leaders, fishermen and advocates of democracy and transparency in government blasted the leadership role of the oil industry lobbyist in creating these “marine protected areas,” but state officials and representatives of corporate “environmental” NGOs embraced her as a “marine guardian.” MLPA Initiative advocates refused to acknowledge the overt conflict of interest that a big oil lobbyist, who supports fracking and offshore oil drilling, had in a process allegedly designed to “protect” the ocean.

You see, the “marine protected areas” created under Reheis-Boyd’s leadership weren’t true “marine protected areas” as the language of the landmark Marine Life Protection Act of 1999 called for. Reheis-Boyd, a marina corporation executive, a coastal real estate developer and other corporate operatives on MLPA Initiative task forces oversaw the creation of “marine protected areas” that effectively allow fracking and offshore oil drilling to continue and expand.

These “marine protected areas” fail to protect the ocean from fracking, oil drilling and spills, pollution, wind and wave energy projects, corporate aquaculture, military testing and all human impacts other than fishing and gathering.

Reheis-Boyd apparently used her role as a state marine “protection” official to increase her network of influence in California politics to the point where the Western States Petroleum Association has become the most powerful corporate lobby in California. The association now has enormous influence over both state and federal regulators – and MLPA Initiative advocates helped facilitate her rise to power.

Oil and gas companies spend more than $100 million a year to buy access to lawmakers in Washington and Sacramento, according to Stop Fooling California (http://www.stopfoolingca.org), an online and social media public education and awareness campaign that highlights oil companies’ efforts to mislead and confuse Californians. The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) alone has spent more than $16 million lobbying in Sacramento since 2009.
There is no doubt that the powerful oil industry and its chief lobbyist are going to use every avenue they can to divert more water forfracking, including taking Delta water through the peripheral tunnels proposed under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP). The industry will also use its increased power in California politics and environmental processes to expand fracking in the ocean unless Californians rise up and resist these plans.

It is time that Californians question state officials and MLPA Initiative advocates about why they supported the leadership role of an oil industry lobbyist in creating so-called “marine protected areas” off the California coast. After all, oil and water don’t mix!
Oil lobby leads California spending as ocean fracking proceeds

Written By: Dan Bacher, August 5, 2013
Oil lobby leads California spending as ocean fracking proceeds

Some may consider California to be a “green” state and the “environmental leader” of the nation, but that delusion is quickly dispelled once one actually looks at who spends the most on lobbying in California – the oil industry.

The Western States Petroleum Association spent the most on lobbying in Sacramento in the first six months of 2013 of any interest group, according to quarterly documents released by the California Secretary of State.

The association spent $1,023,069.78 in the first quarter and $1,285,720.17 in the second quarter, a total of $2,308,789.95, to lobby legislators and other state officials. (http://cal-access.sos.ca.gov/Lobbying/Employers/Detail.aspx?id=1147195&session=2013&view=activity)

Because of the enormous influence exerted by the group and the oil companies themselves in the Capitol, all but one bill to regulate or ban fracking was defeated in the Legislature this year. The only bill that passed through the Legislature was the weak bill to “regulate” fracking sponsored by State Senator Fran Pavley.

The association’s members are a “who’s who” of big oil companies, including BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillip, ExxonMobil, Navajo Refining Company, Noble Energy Company, Occidental Oil and Gas Corporation, Shell Oil Products US, Tesoro Refining and Marketing Company, U.S. Oil & Refining Company, Venoco, Inc. and many others.

The top 20 interest groups who spent the most money in the first six months included labor unions, the California Chamber of Commerce, Chevron and health care corporations. (http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/)

The latest report on spending on lobbying emerged as the Associated Press revealed that companies prospecting for oil off California’s coast have used the controversial practice of fracking (hydraulic fracturing) on at least a dozen occasions to force open cracks beneath the seabed.

Now regulators are investigating whether the environmentally destructive practice, one that threatens fish and wildlife populations in the state’s marine waters, should require a separate permit and be subject to stricter environmental review. (http://www.mercurynews.com/california/ci_23789784/fracking-off-california-coast-draws-call-greater-regulation)

“Hundreds of pages of federal documents released by the government to The Associated Press and advocacy groups through the Freedom of Information Act show regulators have permitted fracking in the Pacific Ocean at least 12 times since the late 1990s, and have recently approved a new project,” wrote AP reporters Jason Dearen and Alicia Chang.

“Companies are doing the offshore fracking — which involves pumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of salt water, sand and chemicals into undersea shale and sand formations — to stimulate old existing wells into new oil production,” they said.

“Federal regulators thus far have exempted the chemical fluids used in offshore fracking from the nation’s clean water laws, allowing companies to release fracking fluid into the sea without filing a separate environmental impact report or statement looking at the possible effects. That exemption was affirmed this year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to the internal emails reviewed by the AP,” Dearen and Chang stated.

Big oil lobbyist oversaw creation of marine protected areas

While federal regulators allowed oil companies to frack offshore, state officials have also left the door open for the expansion of fracking in California.

Inexplicably missing from the mainstream media and even most “alternative” media reports on this issue is any mention of one of the biggest environmental scandals of the past decade – the alarming fact that Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association, CHAIRED the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Blue Ribbon Task Force that created the alleged “marine protected areas” that went into effect in Southern California waters in January 2012. She also served on the task forces to create “marine protected areas” on the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast. (http://www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/mpa/brtf_bios_sc.asp)

Grassroots environmentalists, Tribal leaders, fishermen and advocates of democracy and transparency in government blasted the leadership role of the oil industry lobbyist in creating these “marine protected areas,” but state officials and representatives of corporate “environmental” NGOs embraced her as a “marine guardian.” MLPA Initiative advocates refused to acknowledge the overt conflict of interest that a big oil lobbyist, who supports fracking and offshore oil drilling, had in a process allegedly designed to “protect” the ocean.

You see, the “marine protected areas” created under Reheis-Boyd’s leadership weren’t true “marine protected areas” as the language of the landmark Marine Life Protection Act of 1999 called for. Reheis-Boyd, a marina corporation executive, a coastal real estate developer and other corporate operatives on MLPA Initiative task forces oversaw the creation of “marine protected areas” that effectively allow fracking and offshore oil drilling to continue and expand. (http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/01/02/the-oil-industrys-marine-reserves/)

These “marine protected areas” fail to protect the ocean from fracking, oil drilling and spills, pollution, wind and wave energy projects, corporate aquaculture, military testing and all human impacts other than fishing and gathering.

As I have pointed out in article after article, Reheis-Boyd apparently used her role as a state marine “protection” official to increase her network of influence in California politics to the point where the Western States Petroleum Association has become the most powerful corporate lobby in California. The association now has enormous influence over both state and federal regulators – and MLPA Initiative advocates helped facilitate her rise to power. (http://www.californiaprogressreport.com/site/lawsuit-filed-against-fracking-oil-lobbyist-says-its-safe)

Oil and gas companies spend more than $100 million a year to buy access to lawmakers in Washington and Sacramento, according to Stop Fooling California (http://www.stopfoolingca.org), an online and social media public education and awareness campaign that highlights oil companies’ efforts to mislead and confuse Californians. The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) alone has spent more than $16 million lobbying in Sacramento since 2009.

Peripheral tunnels will provide water for fracking

Not only do the association and oil companies buy access to lawmakers, but they exert enormous control over Governor Jerry Brown, who is currently fast-tracking the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. The water destined for the tunnels will go to corporate agribusiness and oil companies seeking to expand fracking operations. The construction of the tunnels will hasten the extinction of Sacramento River Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species.

Nobody knows exactly how much water is used specifically for fracking in California now, since reporting by the oil companies on water utilized in fracking is voluntary. One thing is for certain – oil companies use big quantities of water in their current oil drilling operations in Kern County. Much of this water this comes through the State Water Project’s California Aqueduct and the Central Valley Water Project’s Delta-Mendota Canal, the canals that will export the water diverted through the tunnels.

“In the time since steamflooding was pioneered here in the fields of Kern County in the 1960s, oil companies statewide have pumped roughly 2.8 trillion gallons of fresh water—or, in the parlance of agriculture, nearly 9 million acre-feet—underground in pursuit of the region’s tarry oil,” according to Jeremy Miller’s 2011 investigative piece, “The Colonization of Kern County,” in Orion Magazine (http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/6047/). “Essentially, enough water has been injected into the oil fields here over the last forty years to create a lake one foot deep covering more than thirteen thousand square miles—nearly twice the surface area of Lake Ontario.”

Governor Brown has pursued an increasingly cozy relationship with oil companies, leading many to believe that he is going to promote the practice of fracking, in addition to pushing for the construction of the tunnels that will provide more water for fracking.

“A state senator has told me that Brown has cut a deal with the oil companies – he’ll push fracking in exchange for campaign contributions to his 2012 Proposition 30 and his 2014 reelected,” said RL Miller in her recent article on Daily Kos. (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/08/01/1228191/-Drowning-Sacramento-in-a-tide-of-oil)

She cited as evidence for a deal the $27,200.00 that Occidental Petroleum Corporation contributed to Brown’s 2014 campaign. That’s the maximum allowable under California law.

Miller also noted the roughly $1 million that oil companies – members of the Western States Petroleum Association – contributed to Brown’s Proposition 30 campaign. These contributions include the following:

Aera Energy (Exxon-related), $125,000
Berry Petroleum, Denver, $35,000
Breitburn Operating, Houston, $21,250
CA State Pipe Trades Council (usually the pipeline union supports Big Oil), $100,000
Conoco Phillips, $25,000
E & B Natural Resources Management, Bakersfield, $20,000
MacPherson Oil Co., $50,000
Naftex, $10,000
Occidental Petroleum, $500,000
Plains Exploration & Production, $100,000
SoCal Pipe Trades Council, $125,000
Signal Hill Petroleum, $10,000
Vaquero Energy, $35,000
Venoco, $25,000

There is no doubt that the powerful oil industry and its chief lobbyist are going to use every avenue they can to divert more water for fracking, including taking Delta water through the peripheral tunnels proposed under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP). The industry will also use its increased power in California politics and environmental processes to expand fracking in the ocean unless Californians rise up and resist these plans.

It is time that Californians question state officials and MLPA Initiative advocates about why they supported the leadership role of an oil industry lobbyist in creating so-called “marine protected areas” off the California coast. After all, oil and water don’t mix!

Three fracking moratorium bills pass Assembly Resources Committee, then go into Appropriations suspense file

By Dan Bacher

Despite intense political pressure by the oil industry, the Assembly Natural Resources Committee on April 29 approved three bills proposing to halt fracking (hydraulic fracturing), a controversial method of oil and natural gas extraction, in California.

Fracking opponents fear that increased water diversions destined for the peripheral tunnels proposed under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) will be used for expanding fracking in Monterey Shale deposits in the San Joaquin Valley and coastal areas. The construction of the tunnels is expected to hasten the extinction of Central Valley Chinook salmon, Delta smelt and other fish species.

The three bills were referred to the Appropriations Committee suspense file on May 15.

“We are extremely optimistic that these bills will keep moving forward,” said Kassie Seigel of the Center for Biological Diversity. “They can do so as one year or as two year bills. We’re doing everything we can to push them forward and we’ll know more on the status of the legislation at the end of this month.”

Richard Bloom’s A.B. 1301, Holly Mitchell’s A.B. 1323 and Adrin Nazarian’s A.B. 649 would place a moratorium on fracking while threats posed by the controversial practice to California’s environment and public health are studied, according to a news release from Food and Water Watch.

The bills are strongly opposed by the Western States Petroleum Association, headed by their President Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the former Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create so-called “marine protected areas” on the South Coast.

In an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle on May 12, Reheis-Boyd disputed claims by environmental and consumer groups that fracking in California is “destructive and unregulated.”

“In truth, hydraulic fracturing has been used in California for 60-plus years, is not destructive and has never been linked to any environmental harm here. The process is and has been closely regulated. California’s well construction and testing regulations that protect our groundwater are the strictest in the nation,” she wrote.

Groups cite lack of regulations and monitoring

A.B. 1301 author Assemblyman Richard Bloom and fracking opponents strongly dispute Reheis-Boyd’s claims that fracking is environmentally sustainable and is already adequately regulated.

“Fracking operations have skyrocketed throughout the country and in California as new technologies have enabled the extraction of oil and natural gas deposits from previously unreachable geological formations,” said Bloom. “However, fracking uses and produces highly toxic chemicals that can pose serious threats to public health and the environment.”

“The threat is significant enough that 14 states have now enacted legislation restricting or banning the practice until safeguards are in place. Currently, California does not regulate or monitor fracking despite holding the largest oil reserve in the continental United States, the Monterey Shale,” he explained.

Food & Water Watch, the Center for Biological Diversity and Clean Water Action are sponsors of A.B. 1301. The California Nurses Association, Breast Cancer Action, Family Farm Defenders and more than 100 other health, labor, environmental and social justice organizations support the bill.

“Oil and gas wells have been fracked in at least nine California counties without fracking-specific regulation or even monitoring by state oil and gas officials,” according to Food and Water Watch. “Fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, employs huge volumes of water mixed with sand and toxic chemicals — including known carcinogens — to blast open rock formations and release previously inaccessible fossil fuels.”

Kristin Lynch, Pacific region director for Food & Water Watch, said the Natural Resources Committee “sided with the people of California” when it voted to advance legislation that places a moratorium on fracking.

“From the food that California farmers grow today to the long-term future of our state’s water resources and air, California’s economy and vital resources hang in the balance if we allow fracking to continue in California,” stated Lynch.

“This is a huge win for Californians threatened by fracking pollution,” said Kassie Siegel. “These bills will protect the air we breathe and the water we drink from cancer-causing chemicals and other fracking pollutants. That’s why a fracking moratorium is supported by nurses, farmers and so many others concerned about our state’s health and environment.”

Fracking linked to pollution

Siegel said fracking is linked to air and water pollution and releases large amounts of methane, a dangerously potent greenhouse gas. About 25 percent of fracking chemicals could cause cancer, according to scientists with the Endocrine Disruption Exchange.

Andrew Grinberg of Clean Water Action also applauded the Assembly Committee vote.

“This vote is an important step in the effort to protect California from the dangers of fracking,” said Grinberg. “This committee gets it that the state needs to slow down and assess the many threats to our air, water, climate and communities of extreme oil extraction.”

Grinberg said fracking pollutes the air by releasing dangerous petroleum hydrocarbons, including benzene, toluene and xylene. It can also increase levels of ground-level ozone, a key risk factor for asthma and other respiratory illness.

According to a Colorado School of Public Health study, air pollution caused by fracking contributes to the risk of asthma, cancer, and other health problems in people living near fracked wells, A.B. 649, A.B. 1301 and A.B. 1323 will next go to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Fracking uses large volumes of water

The huge volume of water used and contaminated by fracking is a critical issue for California, especially when Governor Jerry Brown is rushing the construction of the peripheral tunnels to export water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to corporate agribusiness and oil companies.

Lynch cited a new report from the Western Organization of Resource Councils that estimates that fracking consumes about 7 billion gallons of water in four western states where fracking has become widespread.

The report, titled “Gone for Good,” warns that water consumption by the oil and gas industry “simply cannot be sustained.”

The current amount of water used for fracking in California is not currently known. In a post on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) website on March 210, Richard Stapler, Deputy Secretary for Communications of the California Natural Resources Agency, claimed that only 8 acre feet of water is used every year for hydraulic fracturing in California, in an apparent attempt to minimize the amount of water employed for fracking.

Yet in a footnote at the bottom, Stapler states, “For reference, you could multiply the average of 87,375 gallons with every injection well in the state (about 25,000) and still come up with a relatively small amount of water — 6,721 acre feet, or water for about 27,000 average families for a year.”

Stapler never responded to my email inquiry over the enormous discrepancy in the water he claims is used for fracking per year– 8 acre feet of water in one section of his article and 6,721 acre feet in another.

One thing is for certain – oil companies use big quantities in their current oil drilling operations in Kern County, although the amount specifically used in fracking operations is hard to pinpoint. Much of this water this comes through the State Water Project’s California Aqueduct and the Central Valley Water Project’s Delta-Mendota Canal, spurring increasing conflicts between local farmers and oil companies over available water.

“In the time since steamflooding was pioneered here in the fields of Kern County in the 1960s, oil companies statewide have pumped roughly 2.8 trillion gallons of fresh water—or, in the parlance of agriculture, nearly 9 million acre-feet—underground in pursuit of the region’s tarry oil,” according to Jeremy Miller’s 2011 investigative piece, “The Colonization of Kern County,” in Orion Magazine.

“Essentially, enough water has been injected into the oil fields here over the last forty years to create a lake one foot deep covering more than thirteen thousand square miles—nearly twice the surface area of Lake Ontario.”

Background: the increasing power of big oil in California

The drive by the oil and natural gas industry to frack California is highlighted by recent disturbing developments that reveal the enormous power of Big Oil in the state.

In yet one more example of the revolving door between government and huge corporations that defines politics in California now, State Senator Michael Rubio (D-Bakersfield) on February 22 suddenly announced his resignation from office in order to take a “government affairs” position at Chevron.

Rubio went to work for Chevron just two months after alleged “marine protected areas,” overseen by the President of the Western States Petroleum Association, a coastal real estate developer, a marina corporation executive and other corporate interests, went into effect on California’s North Coast.

These “marine protected areas,” created under the privately funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative, fail to protect the ocean from fracking, oil drilling, pollution, wind and wave energy projects, military testing and all human impacts other than fishing and gathering.

In a big scandal largely ignored by the mainstream media, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association, not only chaired the Marine Life Protection Act Blue Ribbon Task Force to create so-called “marine protected areas” on the South Coast, but also served on the task forces to create “marine reserves” on the North Coast, North Central Coast and South Coast.

“It’s clear that government and petroleum officials want to ‘frack’ in the very same areas Reheis-Boyd was appointed to oversee as a ‘guardian’ of marine habitat protection for the MLPA ‘Initiative,’” said David Gurney, independent journalist and co-chair of the Ocean Protection Coalition, in his report on the opening of new lease-sales for fracking.

“What’s becoming obvious is that Reheis-Boyd’s expedient presence on the ‘Blue Ribbon Task Force’ for the MLPAI was a ploy for the oil industry to make sure no restrictions applied against drilling or fracking in or around so-called marine protected areas,” Gurney emphasized.

The current push by the oil industry to expand fracking in California, build the Keystone XL Pipeline and eviscerate environmental laws was facilitated by state officials and MLPA Initiative advocates, who greenwashed the key role Reheis-Boyd and the oil industry played in creating marine protected areas that don’t protect the ocean.

Reheis-Boyd apparently used her role as a state marine “protection” official to increase her network of influence in California politics to the point where the Western States Petroleum Association has become the most powerful corporate lobby in California.

Oil and gas companies spend more than $100 million a year to buy access to lawmakers in Washington and Sacramento, according to Stop Fooling California (http://www.stopfoolingca.org), an online and social media public education and awareness campaign that highlights oil companies’ efforts to mislead and confuse Californians. The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) alone has spent more than $16 million lobbying in Sacramento since 2009.

As the oil industry expands its role in California politics and environmental processes, you can bet that they are going to use every avenue they can to get more water for fracking, including taking Delta water through the twin tunnels proposed under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.

For more information about fracking, go to:
http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org
http://www.biologicaldiversity.org
http://www.cleanwater.org
http://www.tni.org/briefing/fracking-and-global-land-grab