Take Two for October 16, 2012

Results of fracking study concern Baldwin Hills-area residents

Activists Rally Against Fracking Outside California EPA Office

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A protestor holds a sign against fracking during a demonstration outside of the California Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) headquarters on July 25, 2012 in Sacramento, California.

There's a controversy brewing here in Southern California, in neighborhoods around the Inglewood Oil Field.

A new report has come out on a controversial oil extraction method called fracking. The study was supposed to address concerns about whether the technique is safe.

But people from neighboring areas including Culver Crest, Baldwin Hills, Ladera Heights, and View Park say the study raises more questions than it answers.

RELATED: Read the study.

KPCC's Molly Peterson heard from them last night as they sparred with the company working the oil field, Plains Exploration & Production Company (PXP). She joined Take Two this morning to offer some insight on the issue and the future of the oil field.

On what the study found:
"They hired consultants, of course, but the oversaw every last part of it. They looked at: water use, chemical use, seismic impacts, air impacts, groundwater impacts, methane impacts, noise, you name it. The consultant said that in an early meeting with community members he actually asked them for their input and took their suggestions and incorporated them into his report. PXP's governmental affairs guy John Martini says the result was research that's just unprecedented...

This is the first study where the actual environmental impacts from a hydraulic fracturing completions operation were evaluated before, during, and after. Never been done before, in California, certainly. And the study is pretty clear that there was no recorded observations of impacts in that regard, said Martini.
It was a one-year study and the work was reviewed by external experts before release. That's controversial too, I'll explain more about that in a second."

On why Plains Exploration paid for this study:
"They had to. There was a settlement with the community and the county about a lawsuit. That lawsuit came on the heels of a county-driven effort to create a community standards district, a kind of set of rules locally to make sure that the community had some say in monitoring and communication and disclosure about what's happening. They didn't really have a choice, not that the community liked that anyway. They were very angry that it was paid for. They felt that it was corrupt because it was paid for by PXP."

On what else the neighbors near the oil field didn't like about the report:
"Uh, everything. Start with the fact that it measured no impacts: longstanding suspicion that exploration has caused hillsides to slump, and gasses like sulfuric oxide to leak into the community. They weren't confirmed and people questioned the methodology, and they really don't like the fact that the peer reviewers included a guy who is a consultant to the oil and gas industry, a guy named John Martin. He's mixed up in a controversy in New York State as well. That's a fact that's been seized upon and complained about not just by community members, but by an array of environmental groups, from the Natural Resources Defense Council to Food & Water Watch."

On what the neighbors want instead:
"They want new independent peer reviewers, for one thing. Culver Crest activist Suzanne De Benedittis named three people and listed their biographical information to PXP who she thought would be better than the guys who did the reviewing in the first place. PXP's Martini told the crowd last night that the study fulfilled the company's settlement obligations as it is, but DeBenedittis, the activist, said that will mean more pressure on Los Angeles County and the supervisor for the area, Mark Ridley-Thomas...

"I don't have any expectations of PXP to hire these three independent experts. But I do know the community will force the county, if Supervisor Ridley-Thomas is true to his word that this is the beginning of the conversation, I expect his to follow up and bring local experts in." said DeBenedittis.
Ridley Thomas has said that this study getting released isn't the last step, but that doesn't make what happens next at all clear."

On the larger significance of this study and the controversy surrounding it:
"Well, for one thing, the Monterey and Santos Shale formations in California take up about 1700-square miles of land, so we're talking about as much as possibly 65 percent of the futureShale oil, this particular kind of oil in the united states. So we might be sitting on a bunch of stuff that gets fracked in the future, especially as we're worried about oil reserves. That said we also have other stuff going on with other regulators South Coast Air Quality Management District is about to start figuring out what rules regulators would like to make on tracking. That will likely have a focus on monitoring requirements, possibly due to the fact that the AQMD has people from around Inglewood and other urban drilling sites calling to report smells a lot. Also this morning, several environmental groups have filed suit against the state's oversight body for oil extraction, it's called DOGGR. They're saying that state authorities haven't met their obligations under California's Environmental Quality Act. I talked to the Center for Biological Diversity's Kassie Siegel about the case earlier:

"It's just ridiculous to do one industry study and then say, hey, there's no risk from this activity. We know that very serious problems are occurring, They're occurring in other parts of the country. We have documented water contamination, we have people complaining about health impacts. And it's really important that we try to prevent these problems from happening in California."

That case just got filed in Alameda County court this morning, so there'll be plenty to follow not just in Baldwin Hills and Inglewood but also coming up around California and the south part of the state as more regulators get into the act on fracking rules."

On whether opposition to the tracking plan could derail oil extraction:
"PXP has permission to operate, they've been granted permission to operate by the state, they're operating within the boundaries within the community standards district. Obviously there have been a lot of community meetings and a lot of community concerns about it, but in the absence of more information that its unsafe it seems like there's no reason that they're going to be able to stop this plan. They've been extracting oil at this site for a really, really long time. I think more than 60 years, so it's going to keep going."


blog comments powered by Disqus