A California city has become the first in the state to place a moratorium on all new oil and gas drilling, prompted by worries about the safety of using fracking to extract oil from the city’s rich reserves.
The moratorium, which was passed unanimously this week by the Carson City Council, puts a 45-day halt on oil company Occidental Petroleum’s plans to drill more than 200 wells near homes and a university in the city. The moratorium leaves time for the city to look into the safety of multiple drilling techniques and determine whether further regulations should be imposed on the industry. After the 45-day ban is up, Carson, which is located in Los Angeles County, will determine whether or not to impose a one-year moratorium.
The ban was spurred by the news that Occidental was planning to use fracking to harvest the 52 million barrels of oil that lie beneath the Carson area. Later, Occidental said they had changed plans and wouldn’t be using fracking, but Carson residents worried that Occidental wouldn’t keep its word.
“The oil companies have drilled there for 100 years, and now all the easy-to-get-out oil is gone and ‘Big Oil’ has to resort to riskier methods,” Carson resident Glen White told the city council. “They get all the profits. We get all the risks. Their profits, our resources.”
The ban comes on the heels of California’s largest-ever rally to ban fracking, which drew more than 2,000 people. The effort to ban fracking has taken hold over the past year in California and was supercharged after Gov. Jerry Brown signed the state’s first fracking bill into law in September. That law did not impose a moratorium on fracking while the state studied the impacts of the practice, something that California citizens and lawmakers have called for since the law was enacted. Nine Democratic California lawmakers sent Gov. Brown a letter in January urging him to halt fracking while the health and environmental risks are evaluated, and a group of scientists also called on Brown to adopt a moratorium on fracking while research was conducted. So far, however, Brown hasn’t heeded these calls, inaction that may have caused a rift to form between the governor and some Democrats.
Like Carson, however, some cities in California — and across the U.S. — aren’t waiting for state and federal leadership to act on fracking and drilling. In February, the Los Angeles city council voted to ban fracking and all other forms of well stimulation, including gravel packing and acidizing, in the city until the council is certain that the practice is safe. That ban still needs one more vote in order to go into effect. In September, Santa Cruz also passed a temporary moratorium on fracking. Outside of California, Johnson City, IL tried this month to pass a fracking ban — it failed, but anti-fracking activists in the city say they aren’t giving up.