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Fracking Fears Provoke Oil Drilling Moratorium in Carson, California

A unanimous vote by the Carson city council for the 45-day moratorium on all oil drilling, with or without fracking, was done in response to an application for drilling by Occidental Petroleum even though the company agreed not to utilize fracking.
March 21, 2014, 9am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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"While company officials initially said they might use hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, they have since changed course, vowing not to use the technique at the Carson site and insisting it would be ineffective in the sandstone deposits there," writes Christine Mai-Duc about the city council's action Tuesday (March 18) night.

The markets reacted to the news, reported The Street. "Shares of Occidental Petroleum (OXY) were down on the news that the Carson, California city council voted unanimously to place a 45-day moratorium on new oil and gas drilling. The moratorium stalls plans the oil company had to develop 200 new wells in the area..."

While a bill that was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in September and took effect in January requires drilling companies to obtain permits for "well stimulation", a term that goes beyond fracking, defined as "injecting a mix of water, chemicals and sands into the ground at high pressures to fracture rock formations and free trapped oil", the state has yet to write the new regulations required by SB 4.

Increasingly, cities are turning to local ordinances to deal with the possible consequences of new oil extraction technology. The Los Angeles City Council voted last month to draft regulations that would ban fracking, acid stimulation, and “gravel-packing,” but has yet to vote on them.

According to "a draft environmental report....the proposed project would have no significant effect on air quality, soil or groundwater." To that point, one of the few member of the public that opposed the moratorium, Charlotte Brimmer, a Carson planning commissioner, "criticized the council for not allowing the environmental review process to play out."

"The moratorium could be extended with another vote for a maximum of two years," adds Mai-Duc.

In 2010, we wrote about a 50-acre section of Carson contaminated with methane gas and benzene. "Oil production in the area before its development has left a legacy of pollution that now threatens the health of residents," wrote Nate Berg.

"Fracking fears" also showed up at the LA City Council Tuesday night when three city council members asked for an investigation to see if fracking "played any role in the earthquake that rattled the city early Monday (March 17) morning," writes Emily Alpert Reyes about the 4.4 magnitude quake near the Santa Monica fault. Reyes also covered the reaction by the oil industry to their charges.

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Published on Wednesday, March 19, 2014 in Los Angeles Times
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