Thursday, May 23, 2013
Should we pay $ 50 billion for tunnels?
Why should Californians pay for $50 billion tunnel boondoggle?
As opposition to Governor Jerry Brown's plan to build two massive tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta increases every day, Brown administration officials continue to mount a full court press for the project's completion.
Dr. Jerry Meral, Brown’s point man for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral tunnels, recently said, "the Delta cannot be saved," in spite of administration claims that one of the co-equal goals of the plan is "ecosystem restoration."
Then in an op-ed piece for the Stockton Record, Meral now claims, "No additional water withdrawal from the Delta is being sought under the application for this permit." (http://www.recordnet.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130519/A_OPINION06/305190304/-1/NEWSMAP)
Restore the Delta (RTD) responded to Meral’s latest statement by asking, “So why then should rate payers from Southern California and tax payers throughout the state be asked to pick up the tab for a $50 billion project that will not make more water for Southern California or save the Delta?”
That is a very good question. How can the Brown administration possibly ask the taxpayers and rate payers to pay for a $50 billion pork barrel boondoggle, putting Californians in debt for generations to come, when the project makes absolutely no sense?
Restore the Delta emphasized, “There is a better solution to California’s water challenges than to build Peripheral Tunnels that won’t create one drop of new water and will not save the Delta.” Restore the Delta’s plan is here: http://www.restorethedelta.org/about-the-delta/healthy-delta-communities-plan/theres-a-better-solution/
Of course, we know that the real purpose of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, under the guise of the co-equal goals of "ecosystem restoration" and water supply "reliability," is to create the infrastructure to export more Northern California water for corporate agribusiness to continue irrigating toxic land on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley and for the oil industry to expand the environmentally destructive practice of fracking.
As I asked Meral, deputy secretary at the California Natural Resources Agency, at a BDCP meeting on March 20, "Can you give one example from U.S. or world history in which the construction of a diversion canal or tunnel has led to taking less rather than more water out of an ecosystem?"
Neither Meral or any Brown administration official has been able to answer this question.
Meral made his controversial comments, “BDCP is not about, and has never been about saving the Delta. The Delta cannot be saved," while speaking with Tom Stokely of the California Water Impact Network (C-WIN) in a private conversation after a meeting with Northern California Indian Tribes on Monday, April 15.
"I was flabbergasted because that's not what we've been told by politicians and state officials," said Stokely after the conversation. "I was surprised at his candor because I've always known that BDCP is not about restoring the Delta."
"We did not put the statement out for publicity gain or just to try to embarrass somebody," said Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, RTD Executive Director, who witnessed Meral make the comment. "The reason we let this statement out was to show the true intent of the tunnels project," which she said is to increase pumping Delta water south.
Both Stokely and Barrigan-Parrilla said Meral had been speaking about his concern that a "mega-flood" could inundate the Central Valley someday, as it did in 1861-62, when Meral made his statement.
A spokesman for the Natural Resources Agency told the LA Times the remarks were “taken out of context” and that there are no plans calling for Meral’s resignation. Congressman George Miller and four other leading Democratic Representatives called for Meral's resignation after he made his controversial remarks. (http://www.latimes.com/news/local/political/la-me-pc-jerry-brown-water-jerry-meral-delta-water-plan-resignation-20130425,0,7348556.story)
It is important to understand that Delta advocates and supporters of Central Valley salmon and Delta fish restoration aren’t backers of “doing nothing,” as Natural Resources Secretary John Laird suggests is the “alternative” to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels in his recent letter in the Sacramento Bee (http://www.sacbee.com/2013/05/17/5417541/managing-to-scientific-uncertainty.html)
The Brown administration needs to immediately halt the BDCP process and instead adopt the following proactive measures:
First, install state-of-the-art fish screens at the state and federal pumping facilities in the South Delta to avoid the deaths of millions of fish including protected salmon and steelhead at the pumps every year.
Second, reduce water exports from the Delta to no more than 3 million acre feet in all years, in keeping with the flow criteria of the State Water Resources Board.
Third, adopt the series of creative recommendations outlined in the Environmental Water Caucus reduced water exports alternative, including an aggressive statewide water conservation program and the retirement of toxic farmlands. (http://www.ewccalifornia.org/reports/REDUCEDEXPORTSPLAN.pdf)
The Brown administration needs to abandon it's tired Nineteenth Century solution - the Bay Delta Conservation Plan - to solving Twenty-First Century ecosystem and water supply problems.
Caleen Sisk, Chief of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, summed up the danger that the peripheral tunnels pose to California’s fish, people and rivers.
“The common people will pay for the peripheral tunnels and a few people will make millions,” emphasized Sisk. “It will turn a once pristine water way into a sewer pipe. It will be all bad for the fish, the ocean and the people of California.”
Photo courtesy of Food and Water Watch.
Three fracking moratorium bills pass Resources Committee, then referred to Appropriations suspense file
by Dan Bacher
Despite intense political pressure by the oil industry, the Assembly Natural Resources Committee on April 29 approved three bills proposing to halt fracking (hydraulic fracturing), a controversial method of oil and natural gas extraction, in California.
Fracking opponents fear that increased water diversions destined for the peripheral tunnels proposed under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) will be used for expanding fracking in Monterey Shale deposits in the San Joaquin Valley and coastal areas. The construction of the tunnels is expected to hasten the extinction of Central Valley Chinook salmon, Delta smelt and other fish species.
The three bills were referred to the Appropriations Committee suspense file on May 15. (http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml)
"We are extremely optimistic that these bills will keep moving forward," said Kassie Seigel of the Center for Biological Diversity. "They can do so as one year or as two year bills. We're doing everything we can to push them forward and we'll know more on the status of the legislation at the end of this month."
Richard Bloom’s A.B. 1301, Holly Mitchell’s A.B. 1323 and Adrin Nazarian’s A.B. 649 would place a moratorium on fracking while threats posed by the controversial practice to California’s environment and public health are studied, according to a news release from Food and Water Watch.
The Appropriations Committee is deciding on these three bills and four other fracking-related bills by Friday, May 24. You can contact your legislator by going to: http://org.salsalabs.com/o/2155/p/dia/action3/common/public/index.sjs?action_KEY=13490
A.B. 1301, A.B. 1323 and A.B. 649 are strongly opposed by the Western States Petroleum Association, headed by their President Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the former Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create so-called “marine protected areas” on the South Coast.
In an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle on May 12, Reheis-Boyd disputed claims by environmental and consumer groups that fracking in California is “destructive and unregulated.”
“In truth, hydraulic fracturing has been used in California for 60-plus years, is not destructive and has never been linked to any environmental harm here. The process is and has been closely regulated. California's well construction and testing regulations that protect our groundwater are the strictest in the nation,” she wrote. (http://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/article/Fracking-has-viable-future-in-California-4506267.php)
Groups cite lack of regulations and monitoring
A.B. 1301 author Assemblyman Richard Bloom and fracking opponents strongly dispute Reheis-Boyd’s claims that fracking is environmentally sustainable and is already adequately regulated.
"Fracking operations have skyrocketed throughout the country and in California as new technologies have enabled the extraction of oil and natural gas deposits from previously unreachable geological formations," said Bloom. "However, fracking uses and produces highly toxic chemicals that can pose serious threats to public health and the environment." (http://asmdc.org/members/a50/news-room/e-newsletters/legislative-update)
"The threat is significant enough that 14 states have now enacted legislation restricting or banning the practice until safeguards are in place. Currently, California does not regulate or monitor fracking despite holding the largest oil reserve in the continental United States, the Monterey Shale," he explained.
Food & Water Watch, the Center for Biological Diversity and Clean Water Action are sponsors of A.B. 1301. The California Nurses Association, Breast Cancer Action, Family Farm Defenders and more than 100 other health, labor, environmental and social justice organizations support the bill.
Oil and gas wells have been fracked in at least nine California counties without fracking-specific regulation or even monitoring by state oil and gas officials, according to Food and Water Watch. Fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, employs huge volumes of water mixed with sand and toxic chemicals — including known carcinogens — to blast open rock formations and release previously inaccessible fossil fuels.
"From the food that California farmers grow today to the long-term future of our state’s water resources and air, California’s economy and vital resources hang in the balance if we allow fracking to continue in California,” said Kristin Lynch, Pacific region director for Food & Water Watch
“These bills will protect the air we breathe and the water we drink from cancer-causing chemicals and other fracking pollutants," said Kassie Siegel. "That’s why a fracking moratorium is supported by nurses, farmers and so many others concerned about our state’s health and environment.”
Fracking linked to pollution
Siegel said fracking is linked to air and water pollution and releases large amounts of methane, a dangerously potent greenhouse gas. About 25 percent of fracking chemicals could cause cancer, according to scientists with the Endocrine Disruption Exchange.
Andrew Grinberg of Clean Water Action also applauded the Assembly Natural Resources Committee vote.
“This vote is an important step in the effort to protect California from the dangers of fracking,” said Grinberg. “This committee gets it that the state needs to slow down and assess the many threats to our air, water, climate and communities of extreme oil extraction.”
Grinberg said fracking pollutes the air by releasing dangerous petroleum hydrocarbons, including benzene, toluene and xylene. It can also increase levels of ground-level ozone, a key risk factor for asthma and other respiratory illness.
According to a Colorado School of Public Health study, air pollution caused by fracking contributes to the risk of asthma, cancer, and other health problems in people living near fracked wells, A.B. 649, A.B. 1301 and A.B. 1323 will next go to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
Fracking uses large volumes of water
The huge volume of water used and contaminated by fracking is a critical issue for California, especially when Governor Jerry Brown is rushing the construction of the peripheral tunnels to export water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to corporate agribusiness and oil companies.
Lynch cited a new report from the Western Organization of Resource Councils that estimates that fracking consumes about 7 billion gallons of water in four western states where fracking has become widespread.
The report, titled “Gone for Good,” warns that water consumption by the oil and gas industry “simply cannot be sustained.”
The current amount of water used for fracking in California is not currently known. In a post on the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) website on March 210, Richard Stapler, Deputy Secretary for Communications of the California Natural Resources Agency, claimed that only 8 acre feet of water is used every year for hydraulic fracturing in California, in an apparent attempt to minimize the amount of water employed for fracking. (http://baydeltaconservationplan.com/blog/blog/13-03-20/Oil_Water.aspx_)
Yet in a footnote at the bottom, Stapler states, "For reference, you could multiply the average of 87,375 gallons with every injection well in the state (about 25,000) and still come up with a relatively small amount of water -- 6,721 acre feet, or water for about 27,000 average families for a year."
Stapler never responded to my email inquiry over the enormous discrepancy in the water he claims is used for fracking per year– 8 acre feet of water in one section of his article and 6,721 acre feet in another.
One thing is for certain - oil companies use big quantities in their current oil drilling operations in Kern County, although the amount specifically used in fracking operations is hard to pinpoint. Much of this water this comes through the State Water Project's California Aqueduct and the Central Valley Water Project's Delta-Mendota Canal, spurring increasing conflicts between local farmers and oil companies over available water. (http://yubanet.com/california/Dan-Bacher-Water-for-fracking-8-acre-feet-6-721-acre-feet-or-much-much-more.php)
"In the time since steamflooding was pioneered here in the fields of Kern County in the 1960s, oil companies statewide have pumped roughly 2.8 trillion gallons of fresh water—or, in the parlance of agriculture, nearly 9 million acre-feet—underground in pursuit of the region's tarry oil," according to Jeremy Miller's 2011 investigative piece, "The Colonization of Kern County," in Orion Magazine. "Essentially, enough water has been injected into the oil fields here over the last forty years to create a lake one foot deep covering more than thirteen thousand square miles—nearly twice the surface area of Lake Ontario." (http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/6047)
Background: the increasing power of big oil in California
The drive by the oil and natural gas industry to frack California is highlighted by recent disturbing developments that reveal the enormous power of Big Oil in the state.
In yet one more example of the revolving door between government and huge corporations that defines politics in California now, State Senator Michael Rubio (D-Bakersfield) on February 22 suddenly announced his resignation from office in order to take a “government affairs” position at Chevron.
Rubio went to work for Chevron just two months after alleged “marine protected areas,” overseen by the President of the Western States Petroleum Association, a coastal real estate developer, a marina corporation executive and other corporate interests, went into effect on California’s North Coast.
These “marine protected areas,” created under the privately funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative, fail to protect the ocean from fracking, oil drilling, pollution, wind and wave energy projects, military testing and all human impacts other than fishing and gathering.
In a big scandal largely ignored by the mainstream media, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association, not only chaired the Marine Life Protection Act Blue Ribbon Task Force to create so-called “marine protected areas” on the South Coast, but also served on the task forces to create “marine reserves” on the North Coast, North Central Coast and South Coast.
“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 David Gurney, independent journalist and co-chair of the Ocean Protection Coalition, in his report on the opening of new lease-sales for fracking. (http://noyonews.net/?p=8215)
“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.
The current push by the oil industry to expand fracking in California, build the Keystone XL Pipeline and eviscerate environmental laws was facilitated by state officials and MLPA Initiative advocates, who greenwashed the key role Reheis-Boyd and the oil industry played in creating marine protected areas that don’t protect the ocean.
Reheis-Boyd apparently used her role as a state marine “protection” official to increase her network of influence in California politics to the point where the Western States Petroleum Association has become the most powerful corporate lobby in California. (http://www.californiaprogressreport.com/site/lawsuit-filed-against-fracking-oil-lobbyist-says-its-safe)
Oil and gas companies spend more than $100 million a year to buy access to lawmakers in Washington and Sacramento, according to Stop Fooling California (http://www.stopfoolingca.org), an online and social media public education and awareness campaign that highlights oil companies’ efforts to mislead and confuse Californians. The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) alone has spent more than $16 million lobbying in Sacramento since 2009.
As the oil industry expands its role in California politics and environmental processes, you can bet that they are going to use every avenue they can to get more water for fracking, including taking Delta water through the twin tunnels proposed under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.
For more information about fracking, go to: