Dozens of environmental activists gathered outside of Long Beach City Hall Tuesday afternoon to protest new offshore fracking scheduled for the next couple of months in the Long Beach Harbor.
The California Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources recently approved the hydraulic fracturing—commonly known as fracking—of about a dozen wells operated by THUMS Long Beach, including five new wells.
The company operates the eastern offshore section of the Wilmington oil field, which lies beneath the Long Beach Harbor, according to the company’s website.
Activists called for the city to stop the planned drillings, which are scheduled to take place between August and December.
“Every offshore frack increases the risk of another devastating oil spill on California’s beautiful coast,” said Ash Lauth of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Long Beach City Council has the power and the responsibility to stop this dangerous plan for new offshore fracking in its tracks.”
According to Lauth, the city owns the land and directs the drilling operations in Long Beach Harbor.
The offshore fracturing projects would also be the first in state waters since 2013, she said.
Hydraulic fracturing includes the high-pressure injection of water and chemicals into an oil or gas reservoir to fracture the reservoir rock and allow oil or natural gas to flow back to the well.
According to Center scientists, at least 10 chemicals routinely used in offshore fracking in the state could kill or harm a broad variety of marine species, including sea otters and fish.
“The high pressures used in offshore fracking increase the risk of well failure and oil spills,” a press release by the Center states.
According to the Department of Conservation Public Affairs Officer Don Drysdale, the THUMS wells that will be subject to fracturing are on a drilling island and "pass directly underground to the hydrocarbon formation without passing through ocean waters.”
In addition, he said any projects beginning after July 1 are subject to new stringent regulations.
“Before hydraulic stimulation can proceed, the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources must witness cement and well pressure tests, and the operator must give 72-hour advance notice of the well stimulation,” Drysdale said.
The operator is also required to drill groundwater monitoring wells on each island and comply with the sampling and monitoring requirements as a condition of the groundwater management plan agreement with the Water Board, he added. These guidelines are in addition to local permits and regulations.
Despite the new regulations, activists still consider such procedures risky. They pointed specifically to the recent oil spill in Refugio State Beach in May, where 21,000 gallons of oil spilled into the ocean.
Photos by Stephanie Rivera.