In a 5-0 vote Monday night, the Culver City City Council approved a resolution to call for a statewide ban against fracking, becoming the first California municipality to do so.
The City’s resolution urges Governor Jerry Brown and the California State Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) to:
place a ban on hydraulic fracturing…until DOGGR takes all necessary and appropriate actions to adopt, implement and enforce comprehensive regulations concerning the practice of fracking that will ensure that public health and safety and the environment will be adequately protected.
Prior to Monday night’s vote, the council was considering calling on the state for a moratorium. However, Councilmember Meghan Sahli-Wells stated, “We have to be bold. The state needs pressure. We don’t have time to mess around. The message really does matter. ‘Ban’ sends a strong message.”
Vice Mayor Jeff Cooper echoed Sahli-Wells’ sentiments, stating, “’Ban’ shows we’re serious. We should let the state know how we really feel.”
Initially, Councilmembers Jim Clarke and Micheal O’Leary favored a moratorium over a ban but Mayor Andy Weissman requested the five-person body achieve a consensus.
Fracking, the common term for horizontal hydraulic fracturing, is a particularly controversial method of oil extraction in which a mixture of water, sand and chemical is injected under enormous pressure into the earth. This process causes shale rock formations to fracture, releasing oil and gas.
. A tenth of the Inglewood Oil Field, where the oil company giant PXP has drilled wells for decades, lies within the boundaries of the city. The remaining 90 percent of the oil field is adjacent to Culver City, in Baldwin Hills. Inglewood is the largest urban oil field in the United States, surrounded by approximately 300,000 people.
State activists and environmentalists argue that fracking is dangerous and can cause potential earthquakes; pollute aquifers and ground water with toxins including carcinogens and release methane into the air—thereby increasing global warming.
Many of these issues were discussed at Monday night’s meeting during public comment. Around 150 people turned out to the meeting and many that spoke were members of the newly formed Frack-Free Culver City, organized by Dr. Suzanne De Benedittis, a longtime local activist. Other speakers included Paul Ferrazzi and Gary Gless, co-founders of Citizens Coalition for a Safe Community and Mark Schlosberg, national organizing director of Food & Water Watch who traveled from San Francisco to speak.
Rebecca Rona Tuttle told the council, "We all have basic human rights, among them the right to health and safety. We assume that as our elected representatives, you will do everything possible to ensure the health and safety of Culver City residents. And that means banning fracking."
Tom Camarella spoke about Buffalo, NY, as the first city in New York State to pass a ban on fracking and reminded the council that although municipalities have passed 180 resolutions and ordinances banning fracking nationwide, only three lawsuits have been brought by oil companies, and only one succeeded.
Carlene Brown described Culver City as a “vision of sustainability’ and spoke of her desire for “earth-friendly technologies.”
In calling on a ban, Molly Lee Wolinsky told the council, “I’m 84 years old, and it’s my goal to live to 100.”
Stephen Murray recited from the Declaration of Independence and stated that the city is obligated to protect his - and everyone’s - health and safety. He told the city council that their vote to ban fracking would be reason to celebrate the ideals of the Declaration two days ahead of the Fourth of July.
While the Council approved a resolution for a statewide ban against fracking, it did not consider a ban on the practice in Culver City itself; something that some residents believe is necessary.
The council did agree, however, that it would need to see more information prior to making any final decisions and that the practice of fracking needs to be considered within the overall framework of updating and finalizing the city’s oil drilling ordinance. The council will address that ordinance in either 45 or 60 days.
“Oil drilling is the most environmentally negative and risky thing we do in Culver City with or without fracking,” said Clarke. “We need to lobby DOGGR to create regulations on fracking that will protect us. If their regulations do not sufficiently protect us, then we ban fracking.”
Weissman also stated the need for more information and directed City staff to demand information from PXP—“by subpoena or otherwise.”
The opposition to fracking has been gaining momentum in recent weeks with the Los Angeles City Council calling on the state to and 53rd Assembly Member Betsy Butler (D-Los Angeles) introduced a bill (AB 972) on June 18 to
And today (July 3), many celebrities together with environmental leaders joined a call for action for the first-ever national mobilization on fracking to take place on July 28 in Washington D.C.
Among those who have joined the call for the event entitled “Stop the Frack Attack,” are Mark Ruffalo, Pete Seeger, Ed Begley Jr., Margot Kidder and Ed Asner.
According to an official press release, the July 28 event will have three demands for Congress: stop dangerous fracking, close seven legal loopholes that exempt the oil and gas industry from parts of the Safe Drinking Water, Clean Air, and Clean Water Acts, and implement a pathway towards 100 percent clean, renewable energy.
Councilmember Meghan Sahli-Wells' piece: Frack Ban: Culver City Moves Ahead
Editor's note: This article was also compiled with input from attendees at the Culver City Council meeting.