Fracking Our Food Basket

Some areas should be banned from oil and gas drilling

(Updated blog from December 13, 2019)

Yesterday, the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) broke a 5-year moratorium on oil drilling and fracking in California, by allowing over one-million acres of public land, in 8 counties across California’s Central Valley and Central Coast, to be auctioned — for drilling “The Food Basket of the World.

San Joaquin Valley
The San Joaquin Valley produces the majority of the 12.8% of the United States’ agricultural production that comes from California. Grapes—table, raisin, and to a lesser extent wine—are perhaps the valley’s highest-profile product, but equally (if not more) important are cotton, nuts (especially almonds and pistachios), citrus, and vegetables. The San Joaquin Valley has been called “The food basket of the world”, for the diversity of its produce. Walnuts, oranges, peaches, garlic, tangerines, tomatoes, kiwis, hay, alfalfa and numerous other crops have been harvested with great success. Stockton produces the majority of the domestic asparagus consumed in the United States, and Fresno is the largest producer of raisins. Source

Stockton, California produces the majority of the domestic asparagus consumed in the U.S.

USGS: SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY, CALIFORNIA – Largest human alteration of the Earth’s surface – The Central Valley of California, which includes the San Joaquin Valley, the Sacramento Valley, and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, produces about 25 percent of the nation’s table food on only 1 percent of the country’s farmland. The economic impacts of land subsidence in the San Joaquin Valley are not well known. Four types of subsidence are known to occur in the San Joaquin Valley. In order of decreasing magnitude they are (1) subsidence caused by aquifersystem compaction due to the lowering of ground-water levels by sustained ground-water overdraft; (2) subsidence caused by the hydrocompaction of moisture-deficient deposits above the watertable; (3) subsidence related to fluid withdrawal from oil and gas fields; and (4) subsidence related to crustal neotectonic movements. Source

Excerpts from a December 12, 2019 Press Release from the Center for Biological Diversity:
  • Most of the land the BLM plans to open to the industry is in the San Joaquin Valley, which already has some of the most severe air pollution in the country.
  • “California’s Central Valley is ground zero for environmental injustices that are the result of poor land-use practices and politicians who side with big industry,” said Gustavo Aguirre Jr., Kern projects coordinator with Central California Environmental Justice Network.
  • “Oil and gas companies are fighting the future,” said Samuel Molina, California state director of Mi Familia Vota. “We can no longer afford worsening conditions for the children of these communities.”
  • “The oil and gas industry in our valley is already the largest stationary source of regional air pollution, pumping out fine particle pollution that is directly connected to asthma and heart attacks, alongside volatile organic compounds and oxides of nitrate that contribute to the formation of lung-damaging smog,” said Genevieve Gale, executive director of the Central Valley Air Quality Coalition. “Adding insult to injury, oil and gas production releases toxic air contaminants, such as benzene and formaldehyde, that are known cancer-causing agents. Our valley cannot take any more.”
  • “At a time when we need to be taking urgent action to address the climate crisis, the Trump administration’s dangerous push to expand fossil fuel extraction on our public lands is a huge step in the wrong direction,” said Gary Lasky, legal chair of the Sierra Club Tehipite Chapter in Fresno.
  • The BLM has not issued a single new oil and gas lease in California since 2013, when a federal judge ruled that the agency had violated the National Environmental Policy Act by issuing oil leases in Monterey County without considering fracking’s environmental dangers.
  • A 2015 report from the California Council on Science and Technology concluded that fracking in California happens at unusually shallow depths, dangerously close to underground drinking-water supplies, with unusually high concentrations of toxic chemicals. Source
Such “great” timing for the administration’s announcement…

December 11, 2019 — THE FRESNO BEE — The central San Joaquin Valley’s air quality on Tuesday spiked beyond the level five warning, the worst it can get, according to the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. The amount of particulates in the air began to climb around 4 p.m. and got worse by the hour until late in the night, according to the district’s tracker. Source

December 11, 2019 — FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) — The Valley’s air was extremely polluted on Tuesday and it was dangerous for residents to breathe it in. According to San Joaquin Valley Air’s data, pollution in the air reached Level 5, the highest level, in the afternoon and evening. Source

Another classic case of “Stuck on Fracking Stupid!”

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