On May 2nd, the Alameda County Planning Commission—and the public—will revisit the Planning Commission’s proposed ordinance to ban all extreme oil and gas extraction methods. Supporters of the ban will have a chance to address the damaging revisions to that proposed ordinance which were presented just a few hours before the previous April 4th hearing by E & B Natural Resources.
BACKGROUND: After two years and much behind-the-scenes work by Alameda County Against Fracking (ACAF), a comprehensive ordinance that would ban all extreme oil and gas extraction methods is finally under consideration by the Alameda County Planning Commission. The proposed Zoning Ordinance Amendment would:
Modify the Alameda County Zoning Ordinance (ACZO) to prohibit high intensity oil and gas operations in the unincorporated area, including Well stimulation by increasing the permeability of the formation; enhanced recovery wells that are injected with brine, water, steam, polymers, carbon dioxide, or other gases into oil-bearing formations to recover residual oil and in some limited applications natural gas; hydraulic fracturing; acid fracturing; acid matrix stimulation treatment; acid well stimulation treatment; and disposal or storage of the substances used in or the waste or byproducts of the uses listed above, including but not limited to hydraulic fracturing fluid, acid well stimulation fluid, well stimulation treatment fluid, flowback fluid, wastewater or produced water. Modify the ACZO to prohibit Disposal or storage in pits or sumps of any wastewater or produced water that is a byproduct of any oil and gas operations (uses listed in 17.06.040(I)).
Here is the full text of the ordinance: PC Staff Report 2016-4-4 Fracking Prohibition (PDF)
This final draft includes provisions that ACAF felt were most important not only for banning surface activities that enable fracking and other extreme oil and gas extraction methods, but also the percolation pits and sumps which have been notoriously involved in contamination of surface waters and clean water aquifers in California’s Central Valley.
Opposition has included Bakersfield-based E & B Natural Resources, owner of the six wells operating in East Alameda County, which objects to any limitation on its current operations. E & B is joined by the California Independent Petroleum Association and Californians for Energy Independence, a petroleum industry front group which argues that the County should defer to the State of California in these matters, despite (or because of) the many failures of state agencies to adequately regulate oil producers. Some East County landowners have also spoken out against regulation in past committee meetings.
UPDATE: Just a few hours before the April 4th hearing, E & B Natural Resources proposed last-minute revisions to the draft ordinance, which County staff obligingly incorporated into a new ordinance fast tracked for immediate vote. These revisions seriously weaken the originally proposed ordinance. One change sets a minimum concentration of acid that would define the borderline between ordinary well maintenance and “acidizing,” a form of extreme extraction the draft ordinance bans. The other proposed change to allow “water flooding” would leave the door open to cyclic steaming and other water-intensive extraction methods. E & B argues these changes are necessary in order for them to continue their current operation. Several commissioners seemed to agree and it’s likely the revised ordinance would have been approved by the Planning Commission had there not been vigorous protest by members of ACAF and other supporters. We forcefully argued that the public needed time to respond to the proposed revisions and that the Commission needed to do its due diligence about “water flooding,” which E & B wanted to remove from the list of prohibited activities. Luckily, the Commission Chair conceded that the questionable process was discouraging public trust in government and continued the hearing until May 2nd. Once again we hope to see solid turnout of our own folks, pumped up and ready to testify, or to hold signs during the hearing. We are very clear that the original draft—before the proposed revisions proposed by E & B—does not curtail E & B’s current operations, and is the version that must be approved by the Planning Commission.
Will Alameda County join Santa Cruz, Mendocino and San Benito in saying no pasaran to the oil industry? Passage of this strong ordinance by the Planning Commission, unweakened by E & B’s proposed revisions, is the last hurdle before the Board of Supervisors makes the final decision. Come join this historic effort!
Alameda County Planning Commission Hearing:
May 02, 2016 at 6pm
Public Hearing Room
Alameda County Offices
224 W. Winton Ave
Hayward, CA 94541