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Council members call for 'fracking' moratorium

September 4, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Two members of the L.A. City Council call for a moratorium on the controversial underground practice known as "fracking" used to recover oil and gas.

A motion in the Los Angeles City Council calls for a moratorium on "fracking." Critics call it a threat to the environment. Supporters maintain it is safe.

The Inglewood Oil Field is spread across 1,200 acres, bordered by Culver City, Inglewood and Baldwin Hills.

It is the largest urban oil field in the country, and home, LA City officials say, to the controversial practice known as hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking."

Fracking is the nickname for hydraulic fracturing, the process of injecting with high pressure large amounts of water and chemicals into the ground, allowing drillers to extract more oil and natural gas.

"We are risking people's health and safety in order to extract oil," said Angela Johnson, general counsel for Physicians for Social Responsibility.

On the steps of Los Angeles City Hall, anti-fracking activists blasted California Governor Jerry Brown for not banning the practice statewide.

Council members Paul Koretz and Mike Bonin want the city council to change its zoning laws to prohibit fracking in LA.

"Fracking endangers us in terms of having causied earthquakes in other places, and this is the last place we should take that kind of chance," said Koretz.

Some experts say the earthquake threat is overblown, but critics also say fracking pollutes the groundwater and increases climate change by releasing methane into the air.

The Inglewood Oil Field is currently owned by the Plains Exploration and Production Company. A spokesman for the company said fracking is an unfair target of environmentalists and has been proven safe.

"Everyone from state regulators across the country to the Department of Energy to the Department of Interior to leading scientists have said unequivocally that there's never been a case of water contamination linked directly to the practice," said Dave Quast, a consultant with Plains Exploration and Production.

"The same is true of earthquakes, for example, here in California there's never been a case where hydraulic fracturing is linked to earthquakes," said Quast.

But fracking opponents aren't buying the argument. They point to a huge 1985 explosion that leveled a department store built over an old oil field in the Fairfax District.

Stanford University scientists say practices similar to fracking back in the 1960s created a pocket of underground methane that eventually ignited.

And a recent documentary called "Gasland" shows people who live near fracking sites setting their tap water on fire.

"There's a lot of places in the country actually where you can light your water on fire because methane exists in it," said Quast. "New York is one of those, but there's not hydraulic fracturing."

The anti-fracking movement is moving forward though, enlisting some familiar faces in its campaign, including actors Ed Begley Jr. and Esai Morales.

"Today we are here to say 'Not in our backyard. Not in anyone's backyard. Get the frack out of our lives,'" said Morales.

Koretz says he hopes his ban will make it to a council vote within a month or so.


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