Fresno Bee Newsroom Blog

Fresno fracking opponents join worldwide protest

Fresno fracking opponents demonstrated last weekend as part of “Global Frackdown2,” a worldwide effort to oppose injecting chemical-laden water into the ground to open up oil-bearing rocks.

The opposition is stirred by fears of drinking water contamination and overburdening existing water supply.

The demonstration was led by Fresnans Against Fracking. The group, like many other opposition organizations, wants to see a moratorium on fracking — a shorthand name for hydraulic fracturing.

The local group is asking for the Fresno City Council and the Fresno County Board of Supervisors to pass an ordinance to enforce a moratorium.

In the San Joaquin Valley, this is no small issue.

Along the western edge of the Valley, there are deep shale rock formations that hold an estimated 15 billion barrels of recoverable oil.

That is an attractive prospect to local leaders. Many thousands of jobs could be created, and there would be a tax bonanza.

Many public officials are courting the idea, but environmentalists have been hammering it. They say the practice needs to be thoroughly studied first.

Last month, Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 4, the first fracking law in California. It requires oil companies to obtain permits for fracking as well as acidizing, the use of hydrofluoric acid and other chemicals to dissolve shale rock.

It also requires notification of neighbors, public disclosure of the chemicals used, as well as groundwater and air quality monitoring and an independent scientific study.

Neither side of the debate likes the law. The oil industry opposed the bill, saying it goes to far in regulating their work. Environmentalists generally opposed it as well, saying it is not nearly protective enough.

In Fresno, Gary Lasky, president of Fresnans Against Fracking, says there is not enough known yet about the impacts to the water and air. He said the groundwater and air should be protected before fracking is allowed.

Yosemite’s Merced River plan delayed again

Yosemite National Park‘s long-running effort to finish a protection plan for the Merced River just got a little longer.

The U.S. District Court in Fresno Thursday granted a delay in the controversial plan until Dec. 31. It was supposed to be completed by July 31 — a date set by a previous request for a delay. Yosemite needs time to process more than 30,000 comments received this year on the draft.

The National Park Service and the activist groups late Wednesday filed papers to push off the deadline, which adds time to an effort that already is more than a decade old. This is the third version of the plan since 2000. Previous versions were struck down by federal courts.

The current plan is a result of a lawsuit settlement between activists and the Park Service in 2009.

Park Service leaders say they are not reopening the comment period on the controversial plan, as business leaders and many others had hoped. Many had pushed hard this year to reopen the process because they opposed removing the ice rink at Curry Village and several other amenities.

The plan was attacked earlier this month in a hearing before the House of Representatives. Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Elk Grove, led a Republican charge to leave the amenities untouched.

He termed the plan “exclusionary and elitist,” and asked, if facilities are removed from Yosemite Valley, “where does a dad go to get ice cream for a kid on a hot summer’s day?”

Activist groups, including Friends of Yosemite Valley and Mariposans for the Environment and Responsible Government, also want to negotiate the content of the draft. They and the Park Service are asking for time for that negotiation.

There were no specifics in court documents about the activists’ concerns.