Last night Josh Fox, director of the anti-fracking documentary Gasland, and Bill McKibben, environmental activist and founder of 350.org, spoke at the Hammer Forum about ecosystems and communities devastated by fracking, and in particular the fracking operation that has recently begun in Baldwin Hills.
Fracking (or hydraulic fracturing) is a process of breaking up rock and shale with water and chemicals pumped into the earth at extremely high pressure, in order to extract gas from fissures in the rock. Gone are the days of drilling a hole to find an easy-to-reach pocket of gas, but instead of switching to renewable resources, companies have resorted to “breaking the world apart,” in the words of Bill McKibben.
They also pointed to evidence that fracking increases seismic activity. Though earthquakes caused by fracking in Ohio were “fairly small,” California is known worldwide for its earthquakes, and fracking in Baldwin Hills means injecting high pressure water, chemicals and explosives into a major fault line. The effects could be devastating for the entire city. Josh Fox bluntly noted, “If you don’t think they’re willing to risk an earthquake here, go to the Gulf of Mexico… We’ve lost that place as a functioning ecosystem for generations.”
Fox’s comments on the destruction of communities due to Halliburton trucks overrunning the roads, landowners being paid a comparatively tiny amount (to the oil and gas company profits) for the right to drill on their land, loss of quality of life, and severe contamination of the water supply (fracking chemicals are not regulated by the EPA, so the ingredients of the chemical cocktail being poured into the groundwater need not be publicly reported) were particularly poignant. As is often the case, poor communities and communities of color are at the front lines of environmental devastation, and are hit the hardest by the health effects of poor air quality, contaminated water, and toxic chemicals. Fox and his neighbors managed to stop fracking in the New York watershed, but here in LA it has already begun.
Several community blogs and groups have begun to bring attention to the fracking in Baldwin Hills by Plains Exploration and Production (PXP), which originally leased the land for oil, but is one of the many companies in California using oil sites to begin fracking. At a March 8, 2012 Community Advisory Panel meeting, residents told PXP representatives about their concerns over fracking. A May 15, 2012 press conference and rally demanded that Governor Brown ban fracking in California.
Already the community has had to stop a proposed emergency power plant in 2001 and a landfill in 2003. I believe in the power of resilient communities to make change, and coming together we can stop fracking not only in LA, but all over California and this country.
Food & Water Watch is circulating a petition to Ban Fracking in California. More information and resources to take action are below. The full Hammer Forum talk, moderated by Ian Masters, should be available here.
Citizens, Groups Calling for a Ban on Fracking in California, Food & Water Watch (May 15, 2012)
Fracking in Baldwin Hills, Reynier Village Home & Garden (May 16, 2012)
Josh Fox Highlights Fracking On Known Fault Lines in Los Angeles, Firedoglake (May 16, 2012)
‘Ban Fracking in California’ Campaign Fires up in Baldwin Hills, The Front Page Online (May 15, 2012)
Residents express new concerns about ‘fracking’ at Baldwin Hills oil drilling site, Los Angeles Wave (Apr 2, 2012)
Fracking Tied to Unusual Rise in Earthquakes in U.S., Bloomberg.com (Apr 12, 2012)
Fracking and Keystone, Hammer Forum (May 15, 2012)
EPA Connects ‘Fracking’ To Water Contamination, NPR (Dec 8, 2011)
The Baldwin Hills, Black L.A. and Green Justice, KCET Departures (Mar 8, 2012)
A Fight for Their Goal, Their Gains, LA Times (Jun 23, 2001)
Residents Fight City’s Plan to Build Garbage Dump in Baldwin Hills, The Los Angeles Sentinel (Mar 6, 2003)
Food & Water Watch, Fracking Action Center