Debate over fracking heats up in Fresno

Oil wells have been pumping in Fresno County for more than 100 years.
October 18, 2013 4:08:35 PM PDT
Oil wells have been pumping in Fresno County for more than 100 years. But even though production has been declining, a process called Hydraulic Fracturing, or "Fracking," could bring a lot more oil to the surface.

"Yes it is coming its beginning in Kern County and its spreading north very rapidly," William Fjellbo of the Sierra Club said.

Fracking involves injecting water, chemicals and solvents into the ground at high pressure to break apart the shale formations holding oil and natural gas. Those formations run from Kern County into Fresno County. Fresno State Geologist Robert Merrill believes fracking is something to be concerned about.

"The chemicals in the water used to frack many of them are very hazardous and some of them are cancer causing," Merrill said.

A citizens group called "Fresnans against Fracking "gathered at City Hall. Group chairman, Gary Lasky said they are worried the process will contaminate our water supply. "Our drinking water depends on clean underground water?our aquifer and underground water needs to be protected."

Fresnans against Fracking is hoping city and county leaders will approve a moratorium, to stop fracking in Fresno County until more regulations are in place. Most of the land likely to be fracked is in Western Fresno County's farm country. Supervisor Phil Larson, who represents the area, thinks fracking critics are overreacting.

"I don't think we should be alarmed, I think we should endorse it. I think it's a way of increasing our supply of oil and gas," Larson said.

Larson said he was recently briefed on fracking in the Valley. He believes contamination will not be a problem.

"And where they are going to do this type of operation is deep into the earth well below any water table we draw any drinking water or anything like that from. So I think it's an opportunity we want to explore," Larson said.

But in addition to the threat of contamination Merrill wonders how the Valley can afford to lose the massive amounts of water fracking requires.

"The average amount of water takes two to three million gallons per frack, and as everybody knows the valley just in a water crisis, so where is the water going to come from," Merrill said.

Fracking opponents are afraid that agricultural interests will find it more profitable to sell their water to oil companies than to grow crops. The anti-fracking group expects to bring their concerns to both the Fresno City Council and the Board of Supervisors in the coming weeks.


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