*UPDATE* Governor Brown Rejects HF Ban, Dismantles Activist Arguments
UPDATE (5/23/2013, 10:40 A.M. PT) — At a May 14 press conference on the state budget, Gov. Jerry Brown doubled-down on his support for science, common sense and the regulatory process when discussing hydraulic fracturing (video here). Here are the highlights of his answer to a reporter’s question on the “intense debate” over developing the Monterey Shale:
“I stand on intelligent analysis of the issues. … This is not about just saying ideologically yea or nay, it is about looking at what could be a fabulous opportunity…
Now the reason why I have some sympathy for oil drilling in California is because 95% of people use oil because it is important. And until we get them into electric cars or walking or riding a bike, we need oil…
I have to balance my strong commitment to deal with climate change and renewable energy with what could be a fabulous economic opportunity. And if you remember about oil drilling, oil drilling in Long Beach which was really pioneered I think when my father was Governor. Poured I don’t know how many billions into higher education…”
As far as the increased use of hydraulic fracturing in California?
“I don’t think they’re ready to go yet. There’s a lot of technical and engineering issues. So I think we have time to do it right.”
That may be a crushing blow to the activists, who have repeatedly failed to substantiate anything in their campaign against the oil and gas industry which has been “doing hydraulic fracturing right” in California for more than 50 years. Instead, their campaign is built on making misleading and frightening charges aimed at scaring the public, and never accepting any explanation from the industry and even state regulators about why those claims are false, and therefore why the public is safe. Clearly, though, Gov. Brown isn’t buying the activists’ routine, and neither should any other responsible public official.
—Original post, March 28, 2013—
For months, ideologically motivated activists have been running a fact-less fear campaign against the oil and gas industry and lobbying local officials to support a statewide ban on the use of hydraulic fracturing. The most recent example, according to the activists, was a March 20 symbolic resolution in favor of a hydraulic fracturing moratorium from the Los Angeles Community College District’s Board of Trustees. To get that resolution passed, I’m betting the activists concealed many facts from the trustees, facts that show hydraulic fracturing is a proven technology that’s been safely used for more than six decades.
I’m also betting the activists failed to mention that a week before the board meeting, Gov. Jerry Brown flatly rejected talk of a ban on hydraulic fracturing. His comments were reported by Reuters, Public Radio and others, but you can also see an edited transcript and access a recording of the governor’s remarks here.
Here’s what Gov. Brown said about updated regulations, proposed by California’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, which would allow the continued use of hydraulic fracturing under tougher oversight and disclosure conditions:
“I support our Division of Oil and Gas. They are excellent people and I look for them to navigate the issues as we go forward. The fossil fuel deposits in California are incredible. The potential is extraordinary. But between now and development lies a lot of questions that need to be answered, and I feel confident that the people are in place in my administration to handle the issues as they come up. And they’ll be decided based on science, based on common sense, and based on a deliberative process that listens to people, but also wants to take advantage of the great opportunities we have in this state.”
A reporter also asked Gov. Brown about how he responds to people who “would like to see an outright ban on fracking in California.” Gov. Brown’s answer completely dismantled the arguments of the activists, who falsely claim that domestic oil and gas production must be immediately halted in order for governments to promote renewable energy and pursue policies to reduce greenhouse gases:
“Do you know how much oil is imported to keep our cars going? … [When people in California] can get around without using any gasoline, that’s the time for no more oil drilling. Maybe. Because they’ll be many other people still driving. We’re importing oil from many places. It means you’ve got to bring it in by ship or by truck or by pipeline – by something.
So taking care of our own problems is a good thing. So if we need to have everybody driving around, as we do … we’ve got to get some oil. Now, do you want to get the oil from Venezuela [or from] 100 miles away? … So we want to get the greenhouse gas emissions down, but we also want to keep our economy going. And that’s that balance that’s required. …
We have 30 million vehicles in California. That’s a lot of oil. So I think we have room to supply our need even as we reduce oil consumption. We should be reducing it much faster than we are, and hopefully we can get some national policies to do that, but that still doesn’t mean that in the meantime there isn’t oil under the ground in California that can’t be made very useful.”
But Brown’s closing remarks probably were the most damaging to the activist cause:
“Whether it’s fracking, or whether it’s a low-carbon fuel standard, or anything else, we keep our eyes open and we’re not jumping on any ideological bandwagons.”
Gov. Brown has counted on the support of many environmental groups – such as the Sierra Club and the California League of Conservation Voters – for decades and he’s widely recognized as one of the nation’s strongest advocates for renewable energy. So, it will be interesting to see what kind of conspiracy theories the activists come up with now to explain Gov. Brown’s full-throated endorsement of state regulators to oversee oil and gas development and the use of hydraulic fracturing in a way that provides our state with the energy it needs and the environmental protection that Californians demand.
Of course, in that sense, Gov. Brown isn’t breaking new ground. Scientists, regulators, senior members of the Obama administration and many other authoritative sources have said for years that oil and gas development and hydraulic fracturing are fundamentally safe. Here are just a few examples:
“There’s a lot of hysteria that takes place now with respect to hydraulic fracking, and you see that happening in many of the states. … My point of view, based on my own study of hydraulic fracking, is that it can be done safely and has been done safely hundreds of thousands of times.”
Ken Salazar, President Obama’s Interior Secretary 2/15/2012
“We know that natural gas can safely be developed, and to the credit of the industry there are many companies that are leaning into this challenge and promoting best practices for safer and more efficient production. That’s not always widely noticed or appreciated, but it’s a fact. … [The underlying commitment by industry to continuously improve and adopt effective practices as technology evolves is something our administration applauds.”
White House Energy and Climate Adviser Heather Zichal, 5/14/2012
“There have been fears that hydraulic fracturing fluid injected at depth could reach up into drinking water aquifers. But, the injection is typically done at depths of around 6,000 to 7,000 feet and drinking water is usually pumped from shallow aquifers, no more than one or two hundred feet below the surface. Fracturing fluids have not contaminated any water supply and with that much distance to an aquifer, it is very unlikely they could.”
Mark Zoback, Stanford University geophysics professor, adviser to U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, 8/30/2011
“[E]xtremely small microseismic events occur during hydraulic fracturing operations. These microseismic events affect a very small volume of rock and release, on average, about the same amount of energy as a gallon of milk falling off a kitchen counter.”
Mark Zoback, Stanford University geophysics professor, adviser to U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, 6/19/2012
“The process of hydraulic fracturing a well as presently implemented for shale gas recovery does not pose a high risk for inducing felt seismic events.”
National Research Council, 6/15/2012
”Microseismic monitoring showed all fractures were separated from the designated base of fresh water by 7,700 feet (1.5 miles) or more. … Before-and-after monitoring of groundwater quality in monitor wells did not show impacts from high-volume hydraulic fracturing … Before-during-and-after measurements of vibration and seismicity, including analysis of data from the permanently installed California Institute of Technology accelerometer at the Baldwin Hills, indicates that the high-volume hydraulic fracturing … had no detectable effects on vibration, and did not induce seismicity (earthquakes).”
Cardno ENTRIX, Inglewood Oilfield Study, 10/10/2012
“Hydraulic fracturing has been a key technology in making shale gas an affordable addition to the Nation’s energy supply, and the technology has proven to be a safe and effective stimulation technique. Ground water is protected during the shale gas fracturing process by a combination of the casing and cement that is installed when the well is drilled and the thousands of feet of rock between the fracture zone and any fresh or treatable aquifers.”
U.S. Department of Energy and Ground Water Protection Council report, April 2009
“The most important thing we can do is to make sure we control our own energy. So here’s what I’ve done since I’ve been president. We have increased oil production to the highest levels in 16 years. Natural gas production is the highest it’s been in decades. … We’ve got potentially 600,000 jobs and a hundred years’ worth of energy right beneath our feet with natural gas. And we can do it in an environmentally sound way.”
President Obama, 10/16/12
This consensus on both the safety and importance of oil and gas development using hydraulic fracturing is good news for all Californians.