Sen. Holly Mitchell’s Puzzling New Position on Fracking

State Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) did something on Thursday that was extraordinary even by the standards of Sacramento politics. She published an alarmist Op-Ed in the Daily News calling for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) in Los Angeles, claiming that the process is “largely unregulated.”

Why was this extraordinary? Because Sen. Mitchell voted – only four months ago – in favor of SB 4, sweeping regulations that industry was unable to support and that those familiar with rules around the country, like the Director of California’s Department of Conservation (a climate scientist), have deemed the strictest and most far-reaching regulations on fracking in the nation.

The following language might just be bluster if it came from a misguided but impassioned environmentalist from Marin County, where there is no fracking to ban. But it is strange indeed coming from Ms. Mitchell, who should know better:

“It is time to stop exposing neighborhoods to unsuspected toxic risks, calling for disclosure and safety measures only as an afterthought. We need a moratorium on fracking and acidization now, until their safety has been demonstrated and their use does not impose more burdens on minority and low-income communities than elsewhere. Let’s put the health and needs of people first.” (Daily News, 2/27/2014)

Why should she know better?  Because Sen. Mitchell represents the 26th Senate District, which is adjacent to the Inglewood Oil Field, the largest, most heavily regulated and most well-understood urban oil field in the United States. It is also the most transparent, maintaining a website, publishing details of activity into the future and holding monthly meetings with members of the community who have questions.

The Inglewood Oil Field was also the subject of an extensive, court-ordered report on the environmental impacts of fracking in the field, which was prepared by CARDNO Entrix for the oil field’s operator and the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning in 2012The study examined the impact of hydraulic fracturing on, among other things, water quality, well integrity, zonal containment, slope stability, noise, subsidence, seismicity, and ground movement. As the Los Angeles Times headline read: “Inglewood Oil Field fracking study finds no harm from the method.”

Surely Sen. Mitchell is aware of this study and the scores of additional studies that have proven hydraulic fracturing is a fundamentally safe process with manageable risks. Surely she knows that everyone from President Obama’s current and past Secretary of the Interior, the current and past Secretary of Energy, the current and past head of the EPA, and countless state regulators — including the scientists who advise Gov. Jerry Brown — have all said that fracking is well-understood and fundamentally safe.

Finally, she surely must remember voting for SB 4, standing with Sen. Fran Pavley (D), the bill’s sponsor, Governor Brown and other passionate environmentalists who resisted calls from the fringe of the movement to shut down oil and gas production completely and instead to regulate even more extensively.

If she remembers all that, then this week’s op-ed makes little sense — but that’s politics for you.


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