Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Fracking in the news, from Colorado to California (Part II)

That was the headline for this blog post in February, 2013.  The same headline now again seems appropriate based on what I'm reading in the NY Times and hearing on NPR.

A few days ago, Jack Healy of the New York Times reported under the headline, "Battle over Fracking Poses Threat to Colorado Democrats."  An excerpt follows:
An impassioned national debate over the oil-production technique known as fracking is edging toward the ballot box in Colorado, opening an election-year rift between moderate, energy-friendly Democrats and environmentalists who want to rein in drilling or give local communities the power to outlaw it altogether.
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But in a bellwether state like Colorado, where views on drilling vary as much as the geography, the measures could ignite an all-out battle involving oil companies, business groups and conservationists that pulls in millions in outside money, sets off a rush of campaign ads and spawns lawsuits for years to come. That is why Gov. John W. Hickenlooper and other Democratic leaders are working feverishly on a compromise that would give communities more control of energy development in their backyards while keeping the fracking issue off the ballot.
Three Colorado cities approved bans or moratoriums on fracking last fall.

As for the California part, Norimitsu Onishi reported last month from Oroville, California, population 15,506, under the headline, "California's Thirst Shapes Debate Over Fracking."  Here's the lede:
Enemies of fracking have a new argument: drought. 
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The drought, combined with a recent set of powerful earthquakes, has provided the momentum for about a dozen local governments across California, the third-largest oil producing state, to vote to restrict or prohibit fracking in their jurisdictions, as concerns over environmental effects and water usage have grown. 
At the same time, a bill that would declare a statewide moratorium on fracking has been gathering support in the State Senate, a year after a similar effort failed.
Oroville is the county seat of Butte County, population 220,000, where the board of supervisors voted last month to ban fracking.  Onishi writes, "The speed of the decision surprised the activists who had pressed for more modest regulation — especially since there is no fracking going on here."  Onishi suggests that the local politicians were sensitive to the issue because Lake Oroville, the state's second largest reservoir, is at just two-thirds of capacity.

According to the Western States Petroleum Association, fracking just a single California well consumed 87% of the water (127,127 gallons to be precise) consumed in a year by a family of four.  The industry group seems to hold that out as a "good thing" but it seems like a whole lot to me.   Especially where there are so many other competing uses--like agriculture.  This story from the summer of 2013 highlighted the rift between oil interests and ag interests in California.  

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