With the backing of the Sierra Club (through Alameda County Against Fracking) and support from several vineyards in the Livermore area, Alameda County staff presented a new draft ordinance designed to limit new oil and gas operations. While not as comprehensive as the earlier draft, which would have removed the possibility of any new and expanded oil production, the proposal is still tough. The draft specifically prohibits hydraulic fracturing and various forms of acid stimulation. It also bans enhanced recovery through such means as steam, water, and carbon dioxide injection.
The ordinance has passed through the Transportation and Planning Committee with the strong support of Supervisor Haggerty and been reviewed by the Agricultural Advisory Committee. As the language is finalized, ACAF is working on including additional restrictions pertaining to percolation ponds and setbacks from homes, schools and other facilities.
This measure is made all the more necessary with the publication in July of the second volume of An Independent Scientific Assessment of Well Stimulation in California. Commissioned by the state, the report’s findings include how little control there has been over the use of chemicals in fracking, some of them known to be toxic; how groundwater has been contaminated by chemically laced water in percolation pits; and how toxic contaminates are emitted into the air from both fracked and conventional wells.
Forestalling such harmful effects in Alameda County, which has a significant agricultural sector, is important. Both wine grape and vegetable production in the County increased in 2014. The gross value of fruit and nut crops amounted to over $16 million, with a multiplier effect of perhaps three times that amount. It is not just the farmer, vineyard owner, or rancher who benefits, it is the overall community that shares in a thriving agriculture. And, of course, it is the community that suffers when agriculture is hit by adverse conditions.
Weather, climate, and water are key variables in the amount and quality of crops produced. Wine grape harvests have been coming in earlier due to higher temperatures in the Livermore area, as well as across the state’s other wine growing regions. Yields have been lower. The amount of water available from the State Water Project for the Livermore region has been restricted significantly, creating a greater reliance on local groundwater supplies. Passing this ordinance minimizes the risk that agriculture will be competing with oil over scarce resources in the County; it gives growers the space to make the inevitable adaptations caused by predicted changes in climate. Within the larger context of climate change, passing this ordinance constitutes one more small action of many such actions needed to mitigate more erratic weather patterns and rising temperatures.
Want to join the effort to limit oil and gas extraction in Alameda County? Email Rebecca Franke at firstname.lastname@example.org.