Technically known as hydraulic fracturing, fracking involves pumping a chemical fluid mix down a newly drilled well, in order to fracture the rock formation so oil or natural gas can flow out. Opponents and environmentalists have raised concerns that the practice pollutes drinking water, and could even trigger seismic activity.
The new rule bans fracking and other forms of “well stimulation” within the city, until the council is assured that they do not pose a threat to residents’ health and safety. This also makes Los Angeles the first oil-producing city in California to call a halt to the practice.
Today’s vote was prompted by the city’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee, which decided on Tuesday to bring the matter up for a vote. Four towns in Colorado instituted similar bans back in November of 2013, and Mora County in new Mexico became the first full county to impose a ban in May. California lawmakers are also pushing for state-wide ban, based on concerns that the large amounts of freshwater consumes franking will further stress the state’s already drought-wracked drinking supplies. A recent report by Ceres found that 96 percent of franking wells in California are near areas struggling with drought and high water stress.
The chemicals used in fracking have been linked to infertility, birth defects, and cancer. In 2011, a study by the Environmental Protection Agency of an aquifer in Wyoming found it had been contaminated by fracking fluids, with levels of benzene well above the standards set by the Safe Water Drinking Act. A Duke University study in 2013 analyzed 141 drinking water wells, and found methane — the natural gas released by franking — in 82 percent of them. Finally, an analysis by the Associated Press earlier this year linked contamination complaints in West Virgnia and Pennsylvania to local fracking projects.