| Just two days after a big oil lobbyist and former "marine guardian" proclaimed in the Sacramento Bee that hydrofracking in California is "safe," dozens of protesters rallied outside a federal auction in Sacramento against plans to lease more than 17,000 acres of California public land to oil companies for drilling and fracking.
The protesters, dressed in hazmat suits, carried barrels labeled "Warning: Toxic Fracking Fluid." Groups organizing the protest included the Center for Biological Diversity, Clean Water Action, Food and Water Watch, Credo Action, 350.org, Earthworks and Democracy for America.
"The Bureau of Land Management auction would open public land in three counties - Monterey, San Benito and Fresno - for oil drilling and fracking," according to a news release from the groups. "Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a highly polluting form of oil and gas extraction. Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.) urged the BLM to delay the auction over fracking concerns."
Rose Braz, climate campaign director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said, "A fracking boom will devastate California's beautiful public wildlands. The federal government should protect these beautiful public places, not sell them off to be drilled and fracked, risking irreparable harm to our air, water and climate."
"Opening up thousands of acres of public land to oil and gas exploration would directly undercut our state's commitment to clean and renewable energy and endanger our already threatened water supply," said Andrew Grinberg, program organizer at Clean Water Action. "We need to slow down and assess the long-term impacts of increased drilling, fracking and other enhanced oil and gas recovery processes on California's communities, environment and health, and the BLM should do its part by withholding these leases."
Before the auction, Congressman Sam Farr urged the BLM to delay the auction until it can "ensure adequate safeguards" and address concerns raised by Monterey County.
The groups said fracking is a highly polluting form of oil and gas extraction that involves blasting huge volumes of water mixed with toxic chemicals and sand deep into the earth to break up rock formations. Fracking has been tied to air and water pollution; it threatens the climate by emitting large amounts of methane and opening up new oil deposits. About 25 percent of fracking chemicals could cause cancer, scientists say.
"Recent advances in fracking are driving growing interest in California's Monterey Shale, a geological formation holding the largest shale oil deposit in America. This formation, which underlies the BLM leases, includes some of the country's most productive farmland and important wildlife habitat," according to the groups.
Area farmers are concerned about the impacts of fracking on water quality, said Paula Getzelman, president of the Southern Monterey County Rural Coalition and owner of Tre Gatti Vineyards in Lockwood, only 4.5 miles from one of the parcels being auctioned off.
"Many of us here in the San Antonio Valley understand the potential seriousness of unregulated fracking activities, especially where it concerns the quality and quantity of water," Getzelman said. "Agriculture depends on a consistent supply of untainted water, ranchers depend on water for their animals and homeowners depend on clean, sweet water for activities of daily living."
About 25 percent of fracking chemicals could cause cancer, while many others harm the nervous, endocrine, immune and cardiovascular systems, according to scientists. A recent study from the Colorado School of Public Health found that fracking contributes to serious health problems in people living near fracked wells.
On December 10, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association and former Chair of Arnold Schwarzenegger's Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast, claimed that "hydraulic fracturing is safe for California" in her letter to the editor in the Sacramento Bee. (http://www.sacbee.com/2012/12/10/5040406/hydraulic-fracturing.html)
Her letter responds to a Bee editorial on December 7, "Rules on oil and gas fracking are way out of wack."
"The editorial inaccurately implies that hydraulic fracturing projects have been approved in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), suggesting that environmental regulation has been inadequate," said Reheis-Boyd.
"Hydraulic fracturing has been employed in California for 60 years and there has never been evidence that it has caused harm to water supplies or the environment," she claimed. "As president of the Western States Petroleum Association, I can state that members remain committed to producing safe, reliable California energy supplies while continuing to protect the environment and public health."
Reheis-Boyd has apparently never watched Gasland, the Sundance winning documentary that reveals the environmental devastation caused by hydraulic fracturing (http://www.youtube.com/user/Gaslandmovie).
Reheis-Boyd not only presided as the Chair of the MLPA Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force for the South Coast, but she also served on the task forces for the North Central Coast, South Coast and North Coast. Reheis-Boyd oversaw the creation of alleged "marine protected areas" that fail to protect the ocean from oil drilling and spills, pollution, military testing, wind and wave energy projects and all human impacts on the ocean other than fishing and gathering.
David Gurney, independent journalist and co-chair of the Ocean Protection Coalition, commented on the opening of new leases-sales for hydrofracking in California - and Reheis-Boyd's role in pushing for increased fracking in California. (http://noyonews.net/?p=8215)
"Last week, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced new lease-sales for Bureau of Land Management lands in California for 'fracking' development. Offshore areas are showing up on maps: reservoirs of underwater natural gas deposits, that lie under the ocean off Santa Barbara and Southern California," he said.
"It's clear that government and petroleum officials want to 'frack' in the very same areas Reheis-Boyd was appointed to oversee as a 'guardian' of marine habitat protection for the MLPA "Initiative," said Gurney.
"What's becoming obvious is that Reheis-Boyd's expedient presence on the 'Blue Ribbon Task Force' for the MLPAI was a ploy for the oil industry to make sure no restrictions applied against drilling or fracking in or around so-called marine protected areas," Gurney emphasized.
"Objections to the obvious conflict of interest of Reheis-Boyd at the top level of the MLPA 'Initiative' fell upon deaf ears during the MLPAI's run, and were in fact actively discouraged by the Kearns and West energy interest facilitators during the quasi 'public process,' during which fishing and food gathering interests were exclusively thrown off areas of ocean slated to become sacrifice zones for oil industry pollution," concluded Gurney.
Besides lobbying for fracking, Reheis-Boyd has been relentlessly pushing for new offshore oil drilling, the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline and the evisceration of environmental laws.
It is beyond shameful that state officials such as Natural Resources Secretary John Laird and MLPA Initiative advocates embraced the oil lobbyist's questionable role in creating alleged "marine protected areas" on not only the South Coast, but on the Central Coast, North Central Coast and North Coast.
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