L.A. City Council takes step toward fracking ban
– LA Times
“In the morning while walking to her car, Michelle Kennedy sometimes detects a smell like cat urine. She says the asthma her 6-year-old suffers seems to have worsened.
Kennedy suspects the oil and gas wells pumping in her South Los Angeles neighborhood. She was especially troubled to hear from neighbors that acid was being injected in some wells roughly a mile from her home.
Now, partly in response to concerns raised by Kennedy and her neighbors, the City Council on Friday moved toward banning hydraulic fracturing, acidizing and other controversial methods of coaxing oil and gas from wells, agreeing to draft new rules that would prohibit “well stimulation” until adequate environmental safeguards are adopted by state and federal governments.
Activists argue that methods such as hydraulic fracturing, often referred to as fracking, can taint water or trigger earthquakes when wastewater is injected underground.
“Until these radical methods of oil and gas extraction are at the very least covered by the Safe Drinking Water Act, until chemicals are disclosed and problems are honestly reported, until we’re safe from earthquakes, until our atmosphere is safe from methane leaks, we need a fracking moratorium,” Councilman Paul Koretz told a cheering crowd before the meeting.
Hydraulic fracturing frees up pockets of oil and natural gas trapped in shale using injections of water mixed with chemicals. Acidizing, which is more commonly reported in Los Angeles, involves injecting such chemicals as hydrochloric and hydrofluoric acid into wells. Such “extreme extraction methods” use chemicals that can harm the skin, eyes and respiratory system and cause cancer, said Angela Johnson Meszaros, general counsel for Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles.
Oil and gas companies say fracking and other well stimulation technologies are safe, proven ways to yield more energy and generate jobs. Nick Ortiz of the Western States Petroleum Assn. told council members at a meeting this week that such methods had “never been associated with any confirmed case of groundwater contamination.” Business groups such as the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn. also contended that Los Angeles doesn’t need new rules because California lawmakers passed fracking regulations last year.
“This is a solution looking for a problem,” said Rock Zierman, chief executive of the California Independent Petroleum Assn. He cited a yearlong study of the Inglewood Oil Field, which found that hydraulic fracturing had no effect on the environment or the health of people living nearby.
Environmental watchdogs said the Inglewood study failed to examine long-term risks, such as chemicals possibly sullying groundwater. Other research has raised concerns about increased levels of methane in drinking water wells near fracking operations in Pennsylvania. Many environmentalists say the new state regulations didn’t go far enough.
Under the state law, “We’re basically telling people, ‘Let yourself be guinea pigs and we’ll study this. If this is a problem, we’ll tell you after the fact,'” said Brenna Norton, Southern California organizer for the environmental group Food & Water Watch.
When a neighbor recently told Lillian Marenco that acid had been used at nearby wells, she clapped her hands over her cheeks. “Oh, God,” she said. One drilling site is down her Budlong Avenue block. A pungent smell lingers over the home where Marenco tends her garden.
Acid has been used for “well stimulation” there in the last year, according to data reported to the South Coast Air Quality Management District. But what that means is in dispute. The company that operates the wells, Freeport-McMoRan, says it undertook “routine maintenance operations” using low volumes of acid, not “acidizing” as activists have described it.
The debate underscores a key question facing the city: How to properly word the proposed fracking ban.
Freeport-McMoRan spokesman Eric Kinneberg argued that the “generic scope” of the current proposal “could prohibit even routine well maintenance activities.” Neighborhood activists have the opposite worry — that a ban won’t be comprehensive enough.”
…Continue reading @ LA Times
Question: Where is the environmental governor? Where is Jerry Brown on poisoning our environment? He was missing in action when the Aliso Canyon gas leak destroyed the lives of 5000 Californian families. Governor Moonbeam as usual is MIA again. /CJ
Identifying mystery rotten egg smell attacking SF this week
– SF Curbed
“It sounds like the setup for a joke, but apparently more than 50 people on Wednesday really did report a mysterious and overpowering odor of rotten eggs across the city.
It wasn’t a gas leak, it wasn’t a chemical or oil spill at sea, and it wasn’t the Chevron refinery acting up.
Which is all great news, but that leaves the lingering (literally—some people are still smelling it) mystery of what it actually was?
Some people will tell you that the mysterious smell of rotten eggs mean your house is haunted. So there’s that.
On a slightly less outlandish note, mysterious odors are sometimes simple mass hysteria: One person kinda-sorta thinks he or she smells something, and within minutes the mistaken impression spreads.
But assuming there was a natural, material source for the weird affliction, it turns out there’s a lot of precedent to consider.
For whatever reason, mystery waves of rotten egg smell are quite common in coastal cities.”
…Continue reading @ SF Curbed
What it’s like to have 30 oil & gas wells as neighbors
“The first thing Don Martin asks me is if I want the little picture or the big picture. Big picture, I tell him, and he leads me from the gate of his apartment complex to the driveway of his next-door neighbor.
Martin’s neighbor is Freeport McMoRan, a company worth $30 billion. Freeport’s property beside Martin is just one tiny sliver of an empire that spans continents and includes some of the largest gold and copper mines in the world.
But Freeport is not mining for precious metals next to Martin — this is Los Angeles. Instead, Freeport is drilling for oil. It’s hard to see from the street. If you’re driving through West Adams, a tightly packed residential neighborhood in south central L.A., you’re liable to miss the whole operation.
From the road, all you can see is a strip of manicured lawn, egg-shaped hedges, and a green cement wall. Before a soundwall (which looks like canvas hung several stories from metal I-beams) was erected last year and a drilling rig peaked over the top, most neighbors had no idea this was a facility that includes more than 30 wells, 22 of which are active oil and gas wells. Pipelines snake out from here underground in a matrix that connects two sister sites, each about a mile and a half away in opposite directions. All three sites are owned by Freeport McMoRan Oil and Gas, acquired in 2013 when Freeport gobbled up oil company Plains Exploration.
The Freeport property next to Martin’s apartment is known as the Murphy drill site (named after the Daniel Murphy mansion, which was demolished in 1960 to drill the wells). We can’t see inside the site, and a large sign warns of no trespassing. Another smaller says that, “This area contains chemicals known by the state of California to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm.”
“They want to keep us out, but do they keep their chemicals in?” asks Martin.
To answer his question he leads me back into his apartment complex, St. Andrews Gardens, a sprawling arrangement of stucco units each a couple of stories high. We stand in a small parking lot, and even with the drilling tower looming behind him Martin is imposing in stature, with a broad build, bald head, and a white mustache and goatee. But he has a gentle demeanor. As he talks, his words indicate a growing outrage, but his voice never rises.
Other than Freeport’s wall, this plot of asphalt is the only thing that sits between an industrial operation and the open windows of residents’ homes, he says.
The first thing I notice is the smell — it’s the kind that makes your stomach turn and your head feel light — like you’ve taken too many deep breaths next to a gas pump. About 30 yards from us is cluster of kids who have gathered at a play area at the end of the parking lot to ride bikes, shoot hoops, and hang out.”
…Continue reading @ Grist.org
Mapping All 3,000 of Los Angeles’s Active Oil Wells
– Curbed Los Angeles
“Los Angeles is an oil town and it has been for a long time. We know oil flows throughout LA in underground pipelines, that there is oil being extracted from under the Beverly Center right now, and that even pampered Beverly Hills High has a flowery, art-bedecked oil derrick (for now). But somehow the exact numbers are still surprising: there are now 3,000 active oil wells in LA County, says the LA Daily News. Would you like to know where they are? An interactive map created by the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources of the California Department of Conservation allows users to locate all the wells in California, see who maintains each one, and view information about permits on the wells—way more transparent than the Skull-and-Bones-level secrecy surrounding pipelines. (We highly recommend this page about how to work the map.) Go ahead: put in your address and see what’s gushing nearby.”
….More @ LA.Curbed.com