EDITORIAL: Call for fracking moratorium is sheer nonsense

FresnoDecember 3, 2013 

California China Climate Agreement

Environmentalists protest Gov. Jerry Brown’s position on natural gas fracking Sept. 13 in San Francisco.

BECK DIEFENBACH — The Associated Press

It appears that some environmentalists won't be satisfied until every Californian is standing in the unemployment line.

We say this because of the continued call by environmentalists for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing — more commonly known as fracking — in California.

Fracking is the process of injecting water and chemicals into the ground to break up rock and pull out oil.

With the Monterey Shale Formation, much of which is in the San Joaquin Valley, our state is thought to have the largest shale oil deposits in the United States. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the Monterey Shale could yield 15 billion barrels of oil — or more.

Recognizing that more than half of the petroleum consumed in California comes from foreign lands and additionally recognizing the need to stimulate the state's underperforming economy, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation this year that allowed fracking to continue but with the nation's most stringent regulations.

Brown's reward for trying to reduce dependence on foreign oil while putting people back to work is the scorn of environmentalists. For the past three months, they've been following the governor to events, heckling him and demanding a moratorium on fracking.

How far from the mainstream are the people seeking a moratorium? Gina McCarthy, who was confirmed as the new administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in July, opposes a moratorium while the federal government studies fracking's impacts.

"Life doesn't stop," she told The Bee's Editorial Board in a meeting on Nov. 20. "The idea is to provide the best science we can."

California long has been a world leader in safeguarding the environment, and Brown has continued that stewardship by promoting green jobs and electric vehicles, and requiring utilities to obtain more electricity from renewable sources.

Brown's signing of Senate Bill 4 — authored by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills — brought serious and sensible regulation to fracking in California. The law requires notification of people living near new wells and monitoring of groundwater. In addition, the chemicals used in fracking must be disclosed — a requirement the petroleum industry vigorously opposed.

As we stated in a Sept. 8 editorial, there are concerns about hydraulic fracturing. Fracking uses huge volumes of water, and California has a limited supply compared to fracking states such as Pennsylvania. Although fracking in California would take place at depths far below aquifers used for drinking water, well casings can crack, resulting in contamination.

But the potential payoff to our economy, especially here in the Valley, is worth the risks under the new rules put in place.

If McCarthy — President Barack Obama's point person on his climate change initiative — says that a fracking moratorium isn't warranted at this time, that's good enough for us.

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