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Culver City Mayor's Address at State Fracking Meeting

The following is Mayor Andy Weissman's opening remarks in full at the June 12 Culver City Hall State Department of Conservation Workshop.

On behalf of our community, I appreciate the fact that DOGGR [The Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources] is holding this hearing in Culver City, because our community and neighboring communities are seriously impacted by the operations of the Oil Field.

Thank you for the opportunity to be heard regarding the community’s apprehensions over fracking. My name is Andrew Weissman, I am the mayor of the City of Culver City. 

For Culver City, protecting our people and our health, safety and quality of life come first. Culver City is troubled that it has taken DOGGR this long to even consider regulating fracking. Now, and over the next several years, hundreds of new wells will be drilled in the Baldwin Hills Oil Field. Tens of thousands of people live within a mile of the Oil Field. The neighborhoods and communities that surround the Oil Field are alarmed about the potential impacts of fracking to the environment and their own health and safety.

Many of those people are here today. And they are rightfully distressed that DOGGR has done nothing to inform them of the risks they face or to protect them from those risks. We don’t know that any amount of regulation will adequately protect our health safety, or the environment. The risks could be huge, the potential harm incalculable. And there are no do overs. 

We respectfully suggest that it is time for the State to take the necessary and appropriate action and provide comprehensive regulations concerning the practice of fracking in order to ensure the public health, safety and the environment are protected.  And until DOGGR can establish that regulations for fracking will be regulated in a manner that protect us, one wonders why DOGGR would not place a moratorium on fracking?

In our opinion, we strongly suggest that DOGGR’s regulations must, at a minimum, at least do the following:

  • Assure that oil operators provide DOGGR with sufficient information to understand and assess the potential impacts to water quality, air quality, ground movement and the health and safety of the communities for new wells in which fracking is proposed.
  • Assure that the communities are notified and have the opportunity to comment on the information provided as to wells for which that fracking is proposed.
  • Require fracking operations to be conducted using practices and restrictions that will minimize any potential risk to water quality, air quality, ground movement and the health and safety of the communities.
  • If the operator cannot demonstrate to DOGGR that fracking poses no material risk to water quality, air quality, ground movement or the health and safety of the community, then DOGGR shall not permit fracking.
  • Expressly provide that DOGGR’s regulations are not intended to deprive local jurisdictions with the right to regulate fracking within their own communities to address issues specific to their communities and local conditions; provided they do not conflict with DOGGR’s regulations.

Regulations that require disclosure of the chemicals used in fracking and notice to residents and property owners that fracking is taking place may be important from an informational perspective, but are hardly adequate to protect public health, safety and the environment. 

We are looking for regulations that go beyond notification. We are looking for regulations that protect against any negative impacts from fracking. We acknowledge that these regulations cannot be developed overnight, but, we would expect them to be completed in the coming few months. In the meantime, pending those regulations, we request DOGGR take the following actions:

  • 1. As DOGGR has permitting authority over every new well in the state, we request that DOGGR immediately require all new permit applicants to disclose:
    • ·o  whether the operator intends such wells to be fracked,
    • ·o the quantity and nature of fluids that will be injected,
    • ·o the hydraulic pressure to be used,
    • ·o the formation in which the fracking will occur and
    • ·o the anticipated size of the fracture and volume of gas or oil to be produced.
  • 2. Given its expertise and jurisdiction over all oil and gas drilling in the state, DOGGR must have some knowledge of what kind of fracking has occurred in the Baldwin Hills and what kind of fracking might occur in the future. Much of the fear in the community is stoked by the lack of information about what PXP has done or will do. We request that you tell us tonight what you know in order at this hearing to help allay those fears. And, if there is reason why you cannot provide that information to us tonight, please tell us when this information will be provided.
  • 3. If DOGGR cannot assure us today that fracking operations in the Oil Field are safe and don’t jeopardize the environment or the health and safety of the community, then DOGGR should not permit any kind of hydraulic fracturing  operations that pose a risk until it has developed sufficient regulatory requirements and obtained sufficient information from PXP to tell us that it is safe.

And this should not pose a burden on PXP as PXP has previously told the community that it has only used gravel packing, except for two wells that it recently fracked for purposes of its study, and that it does not conduct the type of fracturing operations that pose any risk, which they suggest is not hydraulic fracturing.

Culver City faces a dilemma. We are between a rock and a hard place, so to speak.

We are in the process of revising our own ordinances relating to the anticipated drilling of dozens of new wells within Culver City limits, but remain somewhat uncertain as to what the City can do or should do with respect to fracking. 

We are told that only DOGGR can regulate fracking – yet thus far, DOGGR has chosen not to do so.This has to end. How can Culver City permit fracking when these risks and the means to mitigate them remain unknown?

The Baldwin Hills Oil Field encompasses about 1000 acres; only 10% of the Oil Field actually lies within Culver City limits. The remaining 90% is located in unincorporated Los Angeles County, much of it abutting Culver City, including several of our residential neighborhoods. 

Even if Culver City can and does regulate fracking in its portion of the Oil Field, those regulations only affect about 100 acres out of 1000.

Regardless of whatever we in Culver City may decide to do in our 100 acres of the Oil Field, our local regulations will have only have a limited impact and in that sense, are doomed to fail in addressing the larger public health, safety and the environmental contamination issues in the remaining 900 acres of the Los Angeles County portion of the Oil Field.

The potential negative effects on public health are not contained by something as arbitrary as a boundary line between our Oil Field and theirs. If the regulations aren’t comprehensive, uniform and consistent, they are inadequate, almost by definition and doomed to failure.   

The concern about water contamination and the concerns about fracking that may cause seismic activity, such as fracking along or near earthquake faults are not exclusively Culver City concerns. Rather, they are multi jurisdictional, regional concerns, and even statewide concerns, and better addressed with comprehensive action taken by DOGGR. Anything we do in Culver City to address these types of concerns will be of little consequence if the jurisdictions around us don’t do likewise. And issues of preemption may prevent local jurisdictions from doing anything. 

That leaves the State of California. Our community spirit is certainly willing, but the laws may not be. Culver City and the County of Los Angeles, for that matter, may have the will, but some contend that we may not have the authority, to do anything about fracking.  

Clearly, the State of California does have the right and duty to regulate fracking.  If the State believes if only DOGGR can regulate fracking, then it must do it, do it right and do it swiftly. We cannot afford to be timid where the public health and safety is at risk. 

We hope that DOGGR will do its job. We expect that DOGGR will act to protect the community. But if DOGGR is unable or unwilling to do its job, then Culver City is not likely to stand idly by. We cannot afford to be timid where the public health and safety is at risk. 

Thank you for listening to the concerns of the community. We hope this evening helps provide you with the information you need to do your job and do it quickly.

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Kelly Hartog (Editor) June 13, 2012 at 05:43 AM
What did you think about the meeting? Were you there? Did you come away with enough information? Did you speak? Were you impressed by the 400+ people turnout? Share your thoughts.
Sherri Akers June 13, 2012 at 01:15 PM
I was honored to be there with so many knowledgeable, articulate people who have already invested years fighting fracking. The information was depressing but the passion and determination was inspiring. I believe we will succeed in getting a moratorium on fracking and ultimately banning it. Every seat was taken, two overflow rooms were filled, people stood along the walls and sat in the aisles and when public comment was opened half the seats emptied while people stood for hours waiting for their chance to be heard. It was amazing!
Crystal Czarnecki Alexander June 13, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Thank you for your leadership Mayor Weissman. Thank you to each member of the Culver City Council for allowing the Chambers to be used for this very important hearing. Thank you also to the staff of Culver City for making arrangements to seat all the additional people in the overflow rooms, and for taping/broadcasting the hearing. Clearly, fracking IS the environmental issue of our day and must be addressed. The State of CA must assign proper resources to do this work at something other than the plodding pace seen out of Sacramento.

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