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Sustainability of Agriculture Depends on Fracking Regulations

Mia Shaw's picture

Associate editor for Fair Observer, regular contributor to IVN News. Former columnist, reporter and editor for the Daily Californian. Political economy, rhetoric and society & environment...

  • Member since 2018
  • 8 items added with 6,798 views
  • Oct 10, 2013

California is the 4th largest oil and gas producing state; according to the Western States Petroleum Association, California received a combined $5.8 billion in fuel excise, corporate, and personal income taxes in 2009. The state is also home to the largest oil shale play in the nation, the Monterey Shale – containing 15 billion barrels of oil – which could be accessed through the process of hydraulic fracturing.

Yet the practice is far from flawless. In addition to fears of drinking water contamination, methane emissions and even claims of earthquakes caused by fracking, there is also the concern of wastewater. As fracking operations may pollute groundwater and use up agricultural water resources, the notoriously controversial technique has the potential to negatively impact agriculture.

In a 1999 incident unrelated to fracking, oil industry wastewater – contaminated with chemicals such as chloride and boron – seeped into ground wells, destroying one central California farmer’s crops. Fearing similar results, many members of California’s food and wine industry see fracking as a threat to the state’s agricultural health.

With concerns across the state over the practice, Senate Bill 4, introduced by Senator Fran Pavley, sought to provide a statutory framework for the comprehensive regulation of fracking in California by requiring that fracking regulations be promulgated by January 1, 2015. A fracking permit system with specified pre-fracking disclosure of the estimated amount of water and chemicals used be established.

“I represent and agricultural community in the Central Valley; farming, agriculture, and food production is the backbone of our economy and water is the life of that. The extent to which we protect our water and natural resources is very important,” said Assemblymember Adam Gray, co-author of SB 4. “At the same time, I represent a community that has high unemployment, and if there is a way to go about oil extraction and fracking in a responsible manner that can provide economic growth and opportunities, folks want to put a structure in place that can do that.”

The bill underwent major changes in the last week of this year’s legislative session after intense lobbying from the oil and gas industry; it will now require state regulators to approve all fracking permit requests in California for the next two years — as long as oil and gas companies disclose to state officials what chemicals they’re using during hydraulic fracturing. Despite opposition from the environmental community, Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 4 into law last month.

According to Senator Pavley, the law is a step in the right direction: “[There are] people from inland agricultural communities, people concerned about unemployment and support hydraulic fracturing, and people concerned that we should be doing more. It’s a balancing act, but the good news is at the end of the day, we’ll have more transparency and disclosure.”

This article was originally published by IVN a non-profit news platform for independent journalists.

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Daniel Ferra's picture
Daniel Ferra on Nov 26, 2013


“Tell the PUC: No new dirty gas plants! 

Every year, more than 70,000 California kids are rushed to the hospital because they can’t breathe, due to air pollution in Calfiornia.

Unfortunately the Governor and the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) are considering huge new gas-fired power plants to replace the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. Dirty gas plants will make our air worse and just aren’t needed.

We can’t sit by and let our air get dirtier and our kids even sicker, when we’ve got cheaper, cleaner, safer options like Renewable Energy.” Sierra Club

California, there is enough Residential Solar to power 2.25 San Onofres, couple that with a Residential and Commercial Feed in Tariff and we can solve some of these environmental and electrical generating problems.

The Southwest is in the midst of a record drought, some 14 years in the making, which means the water supply for many Western states – California, Arizona, Utah, Nevada – is drying up. Last month the Bureau of Reclamation announced they’re cutting the flow of water into Lake Mead, which has already lost 100 feet of water since the drought began.

What happens if the Southwest drought does not end soon?

Will we keep using 3 to 6 million gallons of Clean Water per Fracked well, to extract natural gas?

This petition will ask the California Regulators and Law makers to allocate Renewable Portfolio Standards to Ca. Home Owners for a Residential Feed in Tariff, the RPS is the allocation method that is used to set aside a certain percentage of electrical generation for Renewable Energy in the the State. 

The State of California has mandated that 33% of its Energy come from Renewable Energy by 2020.

The state currently produces about 71% of the electricity it consumes, while it imports 8% from the Pacific Northwest and 21% from the Southwest.

This is how we generate our electricity in 2011, natural gas was burned to make 45.3% of electrical power generated in-state. Nuclear power from Diablo Canyon in San Luis Obispo County accounted for 9.15%, large hydropower 18.3%, Renewable 16.6% and coal 1.6%. 

There is 9% missing from San Onofre and with the current South Western drought, how long before the 18.3% hydro will be effected?

Another generator of power that jumps out is natural gas, 45.3%, that is a lot of Fracked Wells poisoning our ground water, 3 to 6 million gallons of water are used per well. If Fracking is safe why did Vice Pres Cheney lobby and win Executive, Congressional, and Judicial exemptions from:

Clean Water Act.

Safe Drinking Water.

Act Clean Air Act.

Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

Emergency Planning Community Right to Know Act.

National Environmental Policy Act.

“Americans should not have to accept unsafe drinking water just because natural gas is cheaper than Coal. the Industry has used its political power to escape accountability, leaving the American people unprotected, and no Industry can claim to be part of the solution if it supports exemptions from the basic Laws designed to ensure that we have Clean Water and Clean Air” Natural Resources Defense Council.

We have to change how we generate our electricity, with are current drought conditions and using our pure clean water for Fracking, there has to be a better way to generate electricity, and there is, a proven stimulating policy. 

The Feed in Tariff is a policy mechanism designed to accelerate investment in Renewable Energy, the California FiT allows eligible customers generators to enter into 10- 15- 20- year contracts with their utility company to sell the electricity produced by renewable energy, and guarantees that anyone who generates electricity from R E source, whether Homeowner, small business, or large utility, is able to sell that electricity. It is mandated by the State to produce 33% R E by 2020.

FIT policies can be implemented to support all renewable technologies including:
Photovoltaics (PV)
Solar thermal
Fuel cells
Tidal and wave power. 

There is currently 3 utilities using a Commercial Feed in Tariff in California Counties, Los Angeles, Palo Alto, and Sacramento, are paying their businesses 17 cents per kilowatt hour for the Renewable Energy they generate. We can get our Law makers and Regulators to implement a Residential Feed in Tariff, to help us weather Global Warming, insulate our communities from grid failures, generate a fair revenue stream for the Homeowners and protect our Water.

The 17 cents per kilowatt hour allows the Commercial Business owner and the Utility to make a profit.

Commercial Ca. rates are 17 – 24 cents per kilowatt hour.

Implementing a Residential Feed in Tariff at 13 cents per kilowatt hour for the first 2,300 MW, and then allow no more than -3 cents reduction in kilowatts per hour, for what ever the first tier Residential rate is in you area, for the remaining capacity of Residential Solar . A game changer for the Voting, Tax Paying Home Owner and a Fair Profit for The Utility, a win for our Children, Utilities, and Our Planet. 

We also need to change a current law, California law does not allow Homeowners to oversize their Renewable Energy systems.

Campaign to allow Californian residents to sell electricity obtained by renewable energy for a fair pro-business market price. Will you read, sign, and share this petition?

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