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PAPERS ON WAR

By Daniel Ellsberg

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Fracking and the New War on Air Pollution in Los Angeles

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Posted on Dec 5, 2013
AP/Beck Diefenbach

Environmental demonstrators protest California Gov. Jerry Brown’s position on natural gas fracking in September.

By Sonali Kolhatkar

(Page 2)

But, according to Siegel, “People have an absolute right to know what’s in the air they breathe.” So instead of relying on the state to protect residents, Siegel’s organization, the Center for Biological Diversity, has joined a coalition of local and statewide environmental groups in signing a letter calling on the South Coast Air Quality Management District to properly monitor air pollution from fracking projects within Greater Los Angeles. The SCAQMD was created in 1976 to address air pollution in Southern California at the height of the “war on smog” and is considered the best-poised government agency to monitor air pollution from fracking projects. Currently the SCAQMD requires companies to self-report air pollution, but the letter’s signatories want the agency itself to actually measure the levels of toxicity. Additionally, they want the agency to close the trade-secret loopholes used by the fracking industry to conceal the chemicals from the public.

While the immediate water and air pollution caused by fracking is of great concern, there is also the long-term carbon dioxide pollution that will result from burning the harvested fossil fuels, which will further exacerbate climate change. Ironically, President Obama has implicitly backed fracking in his plan to combat global warming by touting natural gas as a “transition fuel” from coal to renewable energy. Siegel made the case that, “these are unconventional fossil fuels that need to stay in the ground if we are to respond to the climate crisis and avoid really serious climate disruption. It makes absolutely no sense to allow this activity to expand in California just at the moment when we have to transition to a clean energy future.”

What Siegel and her fellow activists ultimately want is for California to follow in the footsteps of New York state by implementing a moratorium on fracking. Although several attempts to ban the practice have failed at the state level, there may be good news locally for L.A. residents, as two City Council members recently proposed a citywide halt to fracking. There is precedence: Many municipalities around the country have done the same, most recently cities in Colorado and Ohio.

Fracking has generated one of the largest oil and gas booms in the United States today. Although energy companies in California and around the nation are reaping generous profits, ordinary people are suffering. The question, which leaders such as President Obama and Governor Brown have yet to address, is whether the cost of fracking to current and future generations is really worth it.

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