Local water leaders hear different stories on fracking
By Marianne Ratcliff
Santa Paula News
Published: February 01, 2013
Heads of Ventura County water agencies got conflicting messages about whether hydraulic fracturing - a drilling technique that blasts water, sand and chemicals deep into the earth to extract oil and gas - poses a threat to local water supplies, at a panel presentation Jan. 17 in Oxnard.
The well-completion process, commonly known as fracking, is driving an oil boom across the country, with estimates that California’s Monterey shale formation could hold as much as 15 billion barrels of oil, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Fracking is a way to extract oil and gas from deep rock formations by blasting chemicals, sand and water into the earth.
The Association of Water Agencies of Ventura County invited three panelists to speak on the topic at its Thursday breakfast meeting at the Courtyard by Marriott: Michael Flack, a hydrogeologist with Aecom, a Los Angeles-based engineering, environmental and construction firm; David A. Ossentjuk, an attorney with Musick Peeler and Garrett LLP; and Steven Bachman, Ph.D., a groundwater policy manager for the United Water Conservation District.
“Virtually all wells are fracked,” said Flack, adding that fracking-caused “microseismicity” - small earth tremors - have been documented.
Bachman said fracking is not being done near local aquifers and displayed a PowerPoint slide showing 12 wells fracked in Ventura County in relation to some local aquifers. The Web site he consulted for the slide, fracfocus.org, shows only sites that have been voluntarily disclosed by a handful of energy companies. Government and environmental groups have reported there are many more.
Panelist David Ossentjuk, a self-described “oil and gas attorney,” said there is “no data linking hydraulic fracturing to seismicity.”
There is no mandatory reporting in California of what wells are fracked or what chemicals are used. In December, state Sen. Fran Pavley and Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski introduced similar bills to regulate fracking in California, including requiring energy companies to provide advance public notice of planned fracking activities and disclosure of fracking fluid ingredients. A 2005 Energy Bill provision exempts fracking from the requirements of the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act.
“I don’t know what’s in the fracking fluids and where it’s being used,” said Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks of Thousand Oaks, after the meeting. “I don’t know if public safety is being protected. The Association of Water Agencies is very interested in seeing that its customers are supplied with clean water. They have a vested interest in knowing if fracking is occurring near aquifers and that their water is protected. It is essential for the protection of water going to people’s homes.”
“Right now, there are more questions than answers,” said Ventura County Supervisor Kathy Long of Camarillo, who voted last month for a study of fracking in Ventura County to be completed by the county executive officer in March.
-To view 12 wells in the Ventura County area listed by a Web site managed by the Ground Water Protection Council and Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, log on to http://www.fracfocus.org . This site lists some fracked wells that a few energy companies have voluntarily disclosed.
-The state discussion draft regulations on fracking are listed on the home page of the Division of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources: http://www.conservation.ca.gov/dog/Pages/Index.aspx
-To view the supervisors’ letters to the entire Board of Supervisors and to state legislators regarding fracking, log on to the supervisors’ Dec. 11, 2012, meeting agenda and scroll to item No. 55 to open up both letters: http://gsa-docushare.countyofventura.org/dscgi/ds.py/View/Collection-1009.
-To see the video discussion of fracking, item No. 55 on the Dec. 11, 2012, Ventura County Board of Supervisors’ agenda, log on to: http://ventura.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=67&clip_id=3045.