It’s been a frustrating several years for those involved in the anti-fracking movement. Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, a process for extracting natural gas from shale rock layers deep within the earth by using pressurized fluids, has become a highly sensitive issue for environmentalists. Eco-minded individuals are very anxious about not only what the proliferation of fracking wells has done to our finite natural landscapes, but also how the lack of transparency in most, if not all, facets of the process has kept the public from knowing the threats to human health. The federal government has done little, if anything, to address these issues, thanks to the Energy Policy Act, legislation signed by former President George W. Bush, which exempted hydraulic fracturing from federal regulations.
Films like Gasland, the documentary that revealed how a neighbor of fracking wells was able to set his tap water on fire due to natural gas contamination, played a major role in sparking the movement. In our feature this week, “Fracking offshore,” writer Natalie Cherot, Ph.D., goes into a highly detailed account about fracking, from the lesser-known operations in the Santa Barbara Channel to the limited information available about the carcinogenic chemicals in fracking fluid that have yet to be accounted for in its disposal. Some say ignorance is bliss. Unfortunately, in this case, ignorance may lead to cancer, or worse. But one local politician has made it her duty to bring fracking into the light for the public.
State Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, introduced legislation in February that would have mandated that energy firms give notice to neighbors in advance of planned fracking. The Senate rejected the bill. Pavley, who was re-elected in November, however, didn’t forget about it. In fact, the same day that she was sworn into office (Dec. 3), she introduced Senate Bill 4, which would require oil/energy companies to fully disclose the chemicals used in fracking as well as give neighbors advance notice of planned fracking.
We fully support Pavley’s endeavor, and we are fairly confident that her colleagues in Sacramento feel the same. With the end of gerrymandering and the election of the supermajority of Democrats at the state level, we believe that California could take the lead in mandating transparency for the controversial practice, should her bill, or another similar bill proposed by Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, pass. Though we understand that job loss in the oil industry and continued dependency on foreign oil are major concerns linked to fully exposing fracking for what it is, this should only deepen our resolve to pursue safer, cleaner alternative fuels. Our health and nature at large are the real victims of this circumstance and should be placed above all else to guarantee the best and brightest future for all.