One of the most contentious environmental issues of the day goes before local officials in Butte County this morning when the risks of potential water contamination are pitted against the economic benefits of hydraulic fracturing. North State Public Radio’s Marc Albert has more.
A lively meeting is expected when the Butte County Board of Supervisors considers an outright ban on hydraulic fracturing and the dumping or injection of chemical-laced fracking wastewater into deeper underground wells.
Weighing potentially large risks against comparatively scant local economic benefits, county counsel Bruce Alpert, acting at the direction of the board, is recommending approval of a proposed zoning code amendment that would ban both fracking and the disposal of fracking waste in the county.
A background report to the supervisors, prepared by the county Department of Development Services, notes that three quarters of county residents — and a substantial amount of the county’s $870 million dollar agricultural production — depend on clean water.
Proponents of well stimulation---the industry term for fracking — cite potential job growth, independence from foreign oil producers and the lack of clear evidence directly tying fracking to water pollution as among the reasons fracking should proceed.
But in a county where only 32 wells are considered candidates for fracking or for holding waste fluid, the number of possible jobs may prove too small to outweigh the potential risks. “The risk,” the report concludes, “does not appear warranted by any real benefit, especially given the number of people depending upon uncontaminated water deliveries from the Tuscan aquifer or Lake Oroville for their health, and well-being.”
Federal officials have been warning state regulators for the past four years that California officials haven’t been doing enough to prevent the contamination of groundwater by fracking waste.
The board is scheduled to take up the issue this morning at 10:45.
For North State Public Radio News, I’m Marc Albert in Chico