Fracking Challenge Shows Cracks

By Aubry Stone

Aubry Stone is chief executive of the California Black Chamber of Commerce, in Sacramento. This article originally appeared as an op-ed column in the Los Angeles Business Journal, and is reprinted with permission of the author.

The old saying “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story” has become a mantra for activist groups using junk science to threaten our state’s energy independence.

Aubrey Stone

Aubrey Stone

Using scare tactics about fracking to promote their agenda to stop all oil production in California, the Center for Biological Diversity has earned a handful of sensational news headlines for its bogus study that uses faulty data distortions. CBD’s logic is like comparing apples to oranges and then concluding that together, they make a grapefruit.

Unfortunately, if CBD succeeds in stopping environmentally responsible domestic energy production, it will kill thousands of California jobs and jeopardize billions in tax revenue that support local services including public safety and education, as well as increase the amount of foreign oil we import.

The CBD points to a data compilation that shows benzene in waste-water aquifers and blames its presence on fracking. Lead regulators have flat out said that there is no benzene in fracking solutions in California. However, benzene is present in crude oil formations and, like water, it is a byproduct of oil production. After oil is extracted, the remaining mixture is pumped back into the underground formation from which it came and not into any aquifer.

The State Water Resources Board tested a number of water wells near the disputed injection wells and found no evidence – none – that groundwater had been contaminated by the injection wells.

Simple fact-checking debunks the outrageous claims by the CBD. In fact, CBD’s extremist position is at-odds with that of other environmentalists, including Gov. Jerry Brown and President Barack Obama, who use sound science to guide policy decisions related to hydraulic fracturing.

Tight oversight

California has the most stringent oil and gas production regulations in the nation – and arguably the world. Instead of touting this accomplishment, extremists are relying on fear to convince the public that all oil production must be stopped.

That misguided policy would have massive repercussions on California’s economy.

Less domestic production would result in a greater reliance on imported oil. Not only is that oil produced with fewer environmental protections, it is oftentimes more expensive.

Hard-working families see their own fuel costs rise, but they’ll be hit again with price markups when businesses have to pass along the higher costs to get their goods and services to the marketplace.

Jobs will also be threatened.

More than 103,000 jobs within Los Angeles County are a result of the oil and gas industry. That’s more jobs than any other county in the state. These jobs pay well and generated nearly $9 billion in labor income in 2012 alone.

In addition, these jobs, along with property and excise taxes, fines, fees and permit costs, create significant revenues. In Los Angeles County, oil and gas companies paid more than $5 billion in state and local taxes in 2012.

Many workers within the industry patronize local businesses and the loss of these local jobs will be a direct hit to the bottom lines of many struggling small businesses, like the hundreds of members I represent.

Updated information is due later this year, but according to the Census Bureau’s most recent data, the county has the second-largest number of black-owned businesses in the nation. As a result, L.A.’s communities of color have the most to lose when our economy takes a hit.

And in a painful twist of irony, fewer tax dollars will threaten the ability of cities and counties to deliver critical services at a time when there might be increased demand for services due to local workers losing their jobs.

This is particularly troubling since our member businesses believe strongly in lifting up their entire communities, and they uniquely understand how the tax revenue they pay helps fund our schools, roads and the services that keep our communities safe.

These negative impacts are avoidable and the solution is simple. We can protect our environment and our economy by safely developing domestic energy supplies.

Creating energy here in California – under the nation’s strictest standards – helps keep fuel costs affordable for all Californians, creates jobs across a wide range of sectors, generates significant revenue and ensures that we meet our own energy needs.

Californians deserve facts from state regulators, not fear-mongering from special interests who do not fully understand the consequences of their actions.