Fracking banned by Alameda County

Alameda County became the first Bay Area county to ban the controversial practice of fracking on Tuesday, reaching a compromise between environmental advocates and an existing oil producer in the Livermore area.

There are not currently any fracking operations in the county, but county staff reports indicated there is interest in extracting oil and gas from the Monterey Shale Formation, portions of which may lie under Alameda County land.

Fracking is the process of extracting oil and gas from the earth using high-pressure water mixtures. Activists have raised concerns it could cause environmental damage such as ground water contamination.

Anti-fracking activist Karen White said in a statement after Tuesday’s vote:

“I am deeply relieved that the Board of Supervisors passed the fracking ban. … We’ve taken a step that will protect everyone in Alameda County, especially our children and grandchildren, from toxic chemicals.”

The ban comes after the county reached a compromise with its lone oil generator, E&B Natural Resources. The company operates 25 oil and gas fields in four states, including one east of Livermore that produces about 1,000 barrels a month.

E&B raised concerns that a draft version of the ordinance would make it difficult for the company to dispose of wastewater, to use dilute acid in routine maintenance, and would make it costly and difficult for it to prove it didn’t violate the new rules.

The company has never done any fracking there and has no plans to do any, according to a letter sent to the supervisors in February from E&B vice president of land Gary Richardson. But Richardson said the original draft of the ordinance would interfere with its existing business.

The county made adjustments in the language to account for E&B’s concerns, and today Amy Roth, a spokeswoman for E&B, said the company can work with the current version of the legislation.

Environmental activists are seeking county-by-county bans, having thus far been unable to achieve a statewide ban. Monterey County will vote on whether to ban fracking this November, according to the environmental group Food and Water Watch.

Ella Teevan, an organizer with Food and Water Watch who lives in Oakland, said:

“As we take the fight against fracking to Monterey, I feel safe going home at the end of the day knowing I’ll never have to worry about toxic fracking chemicals in my drinking water.”