Sunday 4 August 2013

Secret fracking off the coast of California.

It emerged this week that hydraulic fracturing (fracking) has been in regular use in the oil fields of the Santa Barbara Channel off the coast of California since the late 1990s. There has been a moratorium on new drill leases in the area since a spill in 1969 which released over 11 million liters of crude oil into the ocean off the coast of Santa Barbara, covering over 60 km of beaches in oil and killing millions of seabirds, an even that led to the drafting of federal clean water laws.

Existing oil field leases and drilling platforms off the coast of southern California. San Francisco Chronicle.

Following a Freedom of Information request by The Associated Press, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has admitted that it has permitted the use of fracking to stimulate the production of additional oil from wells with declining productivity in areas where new wells would not have been permitted, apparently without the knowledge of officials from the State of California, who do not have juristritrcion over exploration projects more than three miles (4.8 km) from the shore, though they could potentially oppose permits if they feel water quality is likely to be threatened.

Hydraulic fracturing involves pumping water, sand and chemicals at high pressures into gas and oil bearing sediment, particularly non-porous strata such as shales and mudstones, in oder to break up the rocks and release the hydrocarbons. However it has been linked to raised seismic activity, and to pollution incidents deriving from both the release of hydrocarbons and chemicals used in the process, contentious issues in southern California. To make matters worse many chemicals that have been banned from use in the process on land in the US are not similarly banned from use off-shore, despite some being known to be harmful to marine organisms, and others never having been tested for use in this environment.

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