Wednesday, May 28, 2014

San Diego Fracking Forum - County Supervisor, Dave Roberts

Billed as a "frank, honest, and balanced forum", today, in the old City Council chamber of County Administration building on San Diego Bay, County Supervisor, Dave Roberts held a Forum on Fracking in California.

Other than the few dozen gray haired environmentalists from the press and a few county employees, there were few in attendance.

Although, there were no representatives from the Fracking Industry on the panel, the forum began with a video produced by Marathon Oil Company, an industry leader. The film claimed that fracking was 'safe' and uses secure pipe casing technology, to keep groundwater from contamination.

Among other experts on the Fracking, Geology, and the Energy Industry, were;
* Damon Nagami, Senior Attorney and Director of the Southern California Ecosystems Project for the Natural Resources Defense Council, serves as lead on Fracking in California
* Ken Weinberg, Director of Water Resources for the San Diego County Water Authority
They each commented on the Fracking industry, giving their perspectives of the facts with special attention to the reality that we are a carbon-energy economy, and that of existing fuels, natural gas is both domestically abundant & cheap, and pollutes less than coal, oil, and perhaps even nuclear.
All those in attendance were in agreement that we would prefer a renewable energy economy, and the questions were one sided when it came to the Fracking industry. Although none on the panel would make claim to being carbon fuel suppliers, none would rule out the use of Fracking Technology as a mining technique, either. 

The consensus on the day was that we should be circumspect with regard to Fracking in California, as all the current information about the Fracking in other states leads us think that there are potential long-term public health and environmental costs that are beyond our current understanding. Plus, there are some unknown variables that need to be taken care of by public policy and state legal regulations before the people of our state can be secure in the use of such Fracking technologies, so that we know the potential for groundwater pollution. Among them are:
  1. What exactly are the secret proprietary fracking chemicals being injected into our environment? 
  2. What is the state of our ground water and aquifers prior to fracking mining in each local? 
  3. What the permeability of the rock just beneath our ground water-tables? 
Some Counties, like San Bonito, are now banning fracking exploration, and the National Resources Defense Council has called for a moratorium upon fracking in California until the appropriate studies can be done and regulations are in place.

Among the issues that need to be defined before fracking for hydrocarbons, include:
  • Public Human and Animal Health Risks and Costs
  • Environmental Justice effects and costs
  • Effect of using up our domestic energy stores 
  • The carbon pollution effects
  • Potential for Earth Quake effects (especially who will pay for the repairs to private property and infrastructure if a connection to fracking is proven)
  • Potential direct and indirect effects upon water supplies, groundwater, and pollution of aquifers
  • The potential effects on property values around fracking wells
  • The disposal of fracking waste products, toxins (especially in the ocean)
  • The use of injected acid into fracking wells, and it's potential environmental effects

According to the energy industries, 18% of new wells have casing failures within the first 18-months and the chemicals used in fracking have known endocrine and cancer effects. As I left the building and entered our new county building park, I was struck with all the children playing in the water fountain. 
During the discussion, it was revealed that any existing oil well has the potential to use fracking techniques, and that there are currently 30 such wells active in San Diego County. This seems insignificant compared to the literally tens-of-thousands of Fracking wells in Kern and Los Angeles Counties, but since San Diego county is dependent upon our water supplies from other areas, any potential risk to their watershed is an indirect risk to ours. With the potential for OFF SHORE DRILLING and Fracking using HORIZONTAL drilling techniques, San Diego could still be in some risk of groundwater or ocean contamination. Ever surf on a contaminated beach?

Other issues that came up included the economic effects of reducing our natural gas exploration. There is the potential for a spiraling feedback loop if our least expensive energy increases, effecting all our energy intensive industries from industry to water transportation. However, I believe that these increased costs would motivate and inspire not only new energy sources like renewables, but education and research into efficiency and conservation techniques.
California State Bill 1132, the Fracking Moratorium Bill, comes up for a vote on Friday, May 30th, so contact your state representatives.
Apparently there is also a San Diego - Science Advisory Board - and I'm trying to identify, if you have any information please use the comments section to inform us. 

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