Los Angeles has long been famous for its film premieres. The City of Angels has also, like many parts of the country, long been famous for being blanketed in toxic chemicals in the air, water, soil and food. Put the two together and what you have is The Toxies: Exposed, a seven part webisode series satirizing some of the worst chemicals plaguing the Southland and the nation.
The August 15 premiere at the Downtown Independent Theater attracted hundreds of environmentalists, activists and the just plain curious. The red carpet ‘step and repeat’ came alive with flashes as the stars of the short films arrived, none so more than Fracking Chemical Cocktail and her security tough, Mr. Drill.
Frackie, the nickname she told me I could call her last year at the Third Annual Toxies Awards, came bearing little more than a tray of what appeared to be very delicious cocktails. The skull and crossbones on the tray betrayed the mysterious toxic nature of the drinks.
“My eyes are up here, Mr. Enviro Distorter,” Frackie taunted. “Maybe this time around you could actually report just how important Los Angeles is for my drilling. Fracking is going to change the face of Southern California. So calm down and have a cocktail.”
Fracking Chemical Cocktail’s luscious image works well in Los Angeles. Far from being an apologist for the environmental catastrophes that fracking causes, she delights in divulging her true aims: fracking everyone she can get her drills into including, according to recent revelations, secret fracking in the Santa Barbara Channel that has caused an outrage.
Frackie fobbed off those questions and delighted in discussing all the benefits of fracking including accelerated global warming. “We can have sweater weather in the winter,” Frackie chirped. “And all that fresh pure glacier water!”
That is not going to be good news for Southern California which has been found to be the Saudi Arabia of shale oil and gas now recoverable using new, and environmentally disastrous, fracking techniques. EnviroReporter.com has found that a little known new threat posed by fracking is slowly becoming known in addition to the already established menaces of groundwater contamination, huge water usage, methane gas releases and fracking induced earthquakes.
Fracking also threatens the very value and marketability of real estate, so much so that major insurance companies are not renewing homeowner insurance policies on properties that have been fracked or are near fracking. Lenders will not loan money on property that has potential for hazardous activity and contamination issues meaning that the land owner is truly fracked. The land becomes uninsurable and unsellable making it worthless.
The amount of frackable oil and gas in northern, central and southern California is so huge that the fracking industry is moving in ready to drop and drill, eminent domain or not. The value of land here, and in 33 other states could very well turn to nothing. Once that happens, these same oil and gas companies, as well as the insurers and lenders, will be able to scoop up huge swaths of land for pennies on the dollar.
Valuable land and groundwater will be destroyed, precious water wasted while inflating the price out of farmers’ range and to add insult to injury, land values will plummet because the insurance companies know the toxic score. Frackie knows the score too and doesn’t hide her agenda to frack anyone anywhere anytime.
“I want to frack your land, I want to frack your land,” Frackie sang to the tune of the Beatles’ I Want to Hold Your Hand.” The other Toxies had told this reporter that Frackie wanted to challenge Yoko Ono to a “Frackdown” rewriting the lyrics to Beatles songs. Frackie was confident her versions would win. “Fracking fields forever,” the velvet-voiced vixen sweetly crooned before segueing into “She fracks you yeah yeah yeah, she fracks you yeah yeah yeah, and with a frack like that you know you should be glad!”
The inevitable environmental consequences of extensive fracking throughout the region didn’t seem to faze Fracking Chemical Cocktail. There is so much money under Los Angeles that she knows what she has to offer is irresistible or “fracktastic” as she puts it.
“Water is for fracking,” Frackie admonished while posing with guests for photo ops. “Don’t be a water hog.”
One of the toxic temptress’ weirdest mind fracks was how she addressed ground water contamination. “You shouldn’t be drinking groundwater anyway because it’s dirty,” she said crinkling her nose. When pressed on why, she could only deviously muster, “It’s in the dirt.”
Frackie’s face lit up when questioned about the gag order that doctors in many states are forced to sign to get information about the actual chemicals possibly harming their patients. This prohibits the physician from being able to tell a patient just exactly what could be making them ill from exposure to fracking chemicals.
“Let me tell you something, I gagged a doctor once,” she giggles. “And I didn’t hear any complaints!”
Southlanders may not be aware that Frackie has set her sights on the Monterey Shale formation that stretches from northern California down the Central Valley into Los Angeles. In fact, according to Occidental Petroleum, there is more oil and gas per square foot here than at any oil and gas producing region on Earth. There could be as much as 15.5 billion barrels of recoverable Monterey Shale oil through fracking of old and new wells using advanced technology .
That technology includes using four to seven million gallons of water per frack, water that then becomes contaminated. That goo is then pumped back into the ground which has caused earthquakes in areas of the country that rarely see them.
The July 2013 Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth Volume 118, Issue 7 contains a study called “Induced seismicity associated with fluid injection into a deep well in Youngstown, Ohio” in which researchers found 109 earthquakes linked to fracking in a year. Six of the temblors were strong enough to be felt. The largest shaker was a magnitude 3.9, significant even by Southern California standards. The report found that the earthquakes were the result of pumping fracking goo from neighboring Pennsylvania into the ground. The Perry Nuclear Generating Station is less than 70 miles from Youngstown.
Heightened earthquake risks from fracking in the Southland are not going to be popular. That didn’t seem to be an issue of concern at a two day December 2012 oil and gas industry conference in Long Beach called “Californian Oil: Unlocking the Golden State’s Oil Shale Resources.”
Unfortunately California’s bonanza lies deeper underground than older shale-bearing formations that have a “pay zone” at from 60 to 80 feet below ground. L.A.’s pay zone can be more than 1,000 feet up to 2,000 feet below surface. That means expensive horizontal fracking wells where the fracking companies have to get “pass-through rights” from landowners who don’t stand to make a dime out of the gas and oil extraction but may end up having worthless land at the end of it all.
Insurance companies and bank lenders have caught on pretty quickly to what a major risk fracking is to property owners regarding property insurance. In short, insurers don’t want to be taken to the cleaners over fracking destruction.
“While many drillers and insurance industry executives suggest that the environmental claims are overblown and that there is presently little evidence of substantial well water pollution from fracking, lawsuits are being filed by plaintiffs in numerous jurisdictions alleging pollution damage (such as groundwater contamination) requiring remediation and attempting to prevent future fracking activities because of potential health and environmental concerns,” according to a March 25, 2012 InsuranceJournal.com article. “Another potentially significant area is property insurance claims by homeowners affected by fracking activities. In addition to potential groundwater contamination leading to bodily injury claims, some homeowners may suffer various forms of subsidence or well water contamination.”
“Most homeowner insurance policies provide coverage for the policyholder’s home and property structures for direct physical loss or damage to the property during the policy period,” the article continued. “However, many of these policies exclude events such as contamination of land or water serving residents, as well as settling, cracking, shrinking or other types of harm that may be alleged by homeowners near fracking sites.”
Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company became the first insurance giant to stop issuing commercial and personal property coverage because of fracking in the summer of 2012. The company made the decision after an internal memo was leaked to the Internet.
“After months of research and discussion, we have determined that the exposures presented by hydraulic fracturing are too great to ignore” the memo read. “Risks involved with hydraulic fracturing are now prohibited for General Liability, Commercial Auto, Motor Truck Cargo, Auto Physical Damage and Public Auto (insurance) coverage.”
The memo also said “prohibitive risks” apply to the people who lease their land for shale oil and gas drilling including contractors involved in the fracking. This includes water haulers, lumber and pipe haulers and operators of vehicles used at the site including dump trucks, bulldozers and other trucks
Even before the new Nationwide exclusion provisions, people started paying the price for fracking even if it wasn’t on their land. A recent Grist.org article describes how a couple went to apply for a new mortgage for their $230,000 west Pennsylvania home in Washington County. Quicken Loans approved the new loan then reversed itself when it became aware that a frack was occurring on their next door neighbor’s property.
This month, another homeowner in Lebanon New York had his renewal on his homeowner’s policy also declined even though his fracked land had no problems. Ironically, and cruelly, this homeowner’s property is now worthless since it can’t be insured or sold even though the gas royalties go to the previous owner.
The Federal Housing Administration’s lending guidelines forbid financing for homes within 100 yards of a property with “an active or planned drilling site.” Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac also do not allow property owners to sign a gas fracking lease.
While hard to believe that fracking could undermine the very foundation of American society – property rights with the ability to build land wealth and pass it on to future family generations, it might appear more probable when considering the lengths fracking industry will go to get its gas, willing property owner or not.
One particularly onerous example of this is in Marion County Kentucky where a group of singing anti-fracking nuns is fighting fracking interests from ruining their land. The nuns are part of a campaign against the proposed 1,100-mile Bluegrass Pipeline connecting Pennsylvania, Ohio and Kentucky to an existing pipeline all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. The Sisters of Loretto are making a stand which has garnered international attention.
“This isn’t about fighting big corporations,” said one of the nuns on the video. “This is about saving our heritage. We see it as a trust.”
Trust doesn’t run the fracking companies. The sisters were told that if they didn’t comply they would face eminent domain.
Frackie says that here in California, there’s no heritage to protect so people shouldn’t be so stubborn about getting fracked. It’s going to happen, Frackie says, should folks even try to fight it.
“Let me let you in on a little secret,” Frackie confides in me leaning so close I can smell the chemicals in her cocktails. “If we wreck the housing rebound, so what? Once these NYMBYs finally go bankrupt from having no homeowners insurance and no buyers for their land, we’ll step in and snap up all this property and boot these slackers off. Won’t that be fracktastic?