FrackingWastePit_BGS_WEB

Our drinking water could be at risk.

One vitally important issue left entirely out of Fullerton’s pending Legislative Platform, to be considered tonight, is support for state legislation imposing a statewide moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, of oil and gas wells. Fracking has been linked to both groundwater contamination and earthquakes, and should be entirely banned as a method of fossil fuel extraction. The process, which involves injecting wells with unknown chemicals at high pressure to cause fissures, freeing deep deposits of gas and oil, also uses huge amounts of water our state can’t afford to waste.

There is already a nationwide grassroots movement to ban the practices of acidizing and fracking.

Ohio recently declared local moratoriums on fracking after its Dept. of Natural Resources declared that there was probably a link between the process and the occurance of earthquakes near drilling sites. Closer to home, the City Council of Carson, CA voted unanimously last month to place a temporary ban on all new oil and gas drilling amid worries that fracking might be used to drill there. The City of Los Angeles has already banned the practices of fracking and acidizing of wells.

North Orange County residents are already asking whether or not the recent La Habra earthquake and it’s seemingly endless aftershocks were caused by fracking in the oil fields near its epicenter. While it is true that earthquakes are hardly a rarity in Calfironia, and that oil tends to be found near faultlines, it is not unreasonable to declare a moritorium on fracking in the city until we can find out for sure whether or not there is a connection. Let’s also lend our support to a statewide moritorium.

The Fullerton City Council’s 2014 Legislative Agenda should include strong support for Senate Bill 1132, which would institute a moritorium on fracking. The bill was approved, albeit narrowly, by the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee last week. Our state representatives, Assembly member Sharon Quirk-Silva and State Senator Bob Huff should be prepared to support this legislation, and our City Council should be there to back them up.

Chemical laden water is routinley pumped back into the ground to dispose of wastewater from fracking. Fullerton is lucky to have groundwater to supply much of our drinking water needs. Chemicals migrating from aging concrete lined wells, which ultimately fail over decades, could contaminate our drinking water, causing a catastrophe for the city. It is simply not worth the risk to allow drillers to extract the last deposits of fossil fuel from fields that have already been producing for the better part of a century.

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The last post to the Rag considered the possibility that language in the City Council’s Legislative Platform could be changed to support ocean desalination.

Readers will recall that Fullerton’s Legislative Platform determines the City Council’s “position on legislative issues that have the potential to directly or indirectly impact the City of Fullerton,” according the staff report attached to item on the April 15 agenda.

This City Council may decide to support or oppose the concept of district elections in Fullerton, rather than the current at-large system used to elect members that body.

The neighboring City of Anaheim spent millions of dollars holding off a lawsuit brought by the American Civli Liberties Union to force the city to allow voters to decide whether or not to elect city council members by individual, exclusive districts rather than the at-large system in place today.

A settlement with the ACLU will finally allow Anaheim residents the opportunity to cast their vote to amend the city’s charter or not to adopt a district model. Anaheim is the largest city in California still using an at-large system that has been characterized as discriminatory against the Latino half of the city’s population, who are rarely, if ever, represented on the council.

Fullerton has no city charter. A State Senate bill would force General Law cities, like Fullerton, with a minimum population of 100,000, to switch to the sort election by district process that Anaheim voters will either adopt or reject later this year. But it is more difficult to make the case for elections by district in Fullerton than it is in Anaheim. Although there are currently no Latinos on the council, Sharon Quirk-Silva, who formerly served two full terms on the council is proof that a Latina can be elected with the right coalition of supporters. And at least one Korean-American has served on the Council in the past, and Korean-American candidates have appeared on ballots in recent elections. There is no reason to think that voters are rejecting them based on their ethnicity.

More troubling is the economic divide that sees nearly all council members residing in wealthier neighborhoods north of Commonwealth Ave., much as Anaheim City Councilmembers tend to come from Anaheim Hills, and not from the “flatlands,” where nearly all Latino residents in that city live. Fullerton’s Latino population are to some extent also localized in a area far from the affluence of the hills. Dividing our city into individual districts may simultaneously address the lack of Latino representation and give residents of south Fullerton a greater voice, but one could cancel out the other. In order make such a system effective, the districts would have to be carefully drawn to avoid disenfranchising one group while trying to help another. Fullerton’s sizable Korean population lives mostly in the new developments in the city’s northwest corner, a relatively wealthy area that is too small for a district that would include 20% of the city’s population.

The implications of either supporting or opposing this bill could be profound. A presentation about the subject prior to the Legislative Platform item should serve to inform the City Council, but even if public comments are considered, support or opposition for such a significant change to our election process should not be decided that night. The City Council should either oppose this bill or not take a position on it until they have carefully considered its implementation locally.

 

Next: Fullerton’s Legislative Platform 3, Ban Fracking

The Poseidon Disaster planned for Huntington Beach. Impractical, destructive, expensive. Fullerton has no business supporting it.

On April 15 the Fullerton City Council will review the city’s Legislative Platform, which determines the City Council’s “position on legislative issues that have the potential to directly or indirectly impact the City of Fullerton.” The Legislative Platform is essentially a handbook for the city’s lobbyist in Sacramento. It is also sent to state and federal representatives to give direction on legislation. The item was was continued from the February 4th meeting for more careful consideration.

There are several areas of concern left unresolved in the current platform. The staff report asks for direction on some of them, including ocean desalination, a technology that separates salts from ocean water to provide potable water. Ocean desalination has been touted as a solution to California’s ever-present water crisis, but it’s detractors, who include the Sierra Club, the DeSal Response Group and Orange County Coastkeeper, claim that it is too expensive, energy intensive, environmentally destructive, and ultimately impractical for anything other than a population with no other options or unlimited energy supplies.

In past years members of the public have objected to any position by the Fullerton City Council in support of water desalination plants like the one planned for Huntington Beach by Poseidon Water. The plant’s designers have peddled it to Orange County cities for the past decade in an effort to win pledges to buy water from it. Although prior platform language supporting desalination as a viable water source was softened to a position of “Monitor(ing) water desalination technologies,” last year, it could easily be changed back to a stronger statement that would strengthen Fullerton’s support for projects like the Poseidon’s Huntington Beach disaster, and even encourage the planning of additional facilities.

The current language could be considered tepid enough, but it should be amended to reflect a position against any desalination plants because there are none planned at this point in time that can deliver any benefit to the ratepayers of the city. Fullerton residents should be particularly watchful of changes to the language that might come our new representatives to the boards of the the Metropolitan Water District and the Orange County Water District.

 

Next: Fullerton’s Legislative Platform 2, Council Elections by District

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