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The County-By-County Fight Against Fracking In California Had A Good Night On Tuesday

The setting sun behind pumpjacks operating at the Inglewood oil fields in the Baldwin Hills area of Los Angeles in 2014. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/RICHARD VOGEL
The setting sun behind pumpjacks operating at the Inglewood oil fields in the Baldwin Hills area of Los Angeles in 2014. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/RICHARD VOGEL

California’s anti-fracking movement just recorded its latest win Tuesday with the passage of fracking ban in Alameda County.

Alameda, which has environmentally-friendly cities like Berkeley and Oakland within its borders, is now the first Bay Area county with a fracking ban in place and the sixth in the state. Last month nearby Butte County residents approved a fracking ban through a ballot measure.

Alameda is fracking-free and has just one oil drilling company operating out of the city of Livermore, according to the San Jose Mercury News. Yet the county could have substantial oil reserves since part of Alameda is near the Monterey Shale, one of largest reservoirs of frackable oil in the U.S.

CREDIT: Dylan Petrohilos/ThinkProgress
CREDIT: Dylan Petrohilos/ThinkProgress

Environmentalists had been working for two years to get the ban in place, arguing that fracking could harm the county’s wine region. California environmentalists have also long argued that fracking’s water-intensive nature is incompatible with a state going through the fifth year of a crippling drought that forced regulators to implement mandatory water restrictions. Some property owners criticized the move during Tuesday’s meeting, however, saying the ban trumped their property rights. Alameda County Board of Supervisors ultimately sided with environmentalists and unanimously approved the ban.  Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, requires large quantities of water that is then mixed with chemicals and sand to be injected deep underground to extract oil and gas from shale rock. The wastewater brought back from fracking wells is polluted, may be radioactive, and is often disposed in injection wells that may let this brine lubricate faults and cause earthquakes. Just in February researchers from the University of Santa Cruz and the University of Southern California tied a set of earthquakes in 2005 near Bakersfield to injection wells. Air pollution is another major concern for environmentalists in California — and elsewhere — . Studies have showed that some oil and gas sites spewed record pollution in Upper Ojai in Ventura County and in Lost Hills in Kern County.

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New Study Ties Fracking Water Disposal To California EarthquakesClimate by CREDIT: AP Photo/Richard Vogel Injecting old, used water from oil and gas drilling in California has been…thinkprogress.orgA ban is “the only way to protect our environment from the destructive effects of fracking,” Kiana Tsao of the Sierra Club, told the San Jose Mercury News. Alameda’s new ordinance comes as fracking bans are multiplying not just in California counties, but across the nation. In response, some states like Texas and Florida have moved to block cities or counties to approve these bans with mixed results.

In California, Governor Jerry Brown has resisted a statewide fracking ban though he’s largely supportive of environmental policies that address climate change like renewable energy mandates. The California legislature has followed similar steps. In 2014, the state Senate voted against a fracking moratorium.

Inaction on a state level has energized the California anti-fracking movement that is now pursuing county-wide bans. Their next battle ground is Monterey County, where voters will vote on a ban in November.