The battle over fracking in Los Angeles has become a war inside City Hall.
In February the City Council voted unanimously to have staffers draft a law that would place a moratorium on hydraulic oil and gas extraction within L.A. Environmentalists pressing for the ban argue that fracking, which injects pressurized liquid into the earth in order to force out fossil fuels, can contaminate water supplies and even trigger earthquakes.
Last week the Department of City Planning — representing some of the staffers ordered to come up with an ordinance — returned a report to the council arguing that hiring a “technical expert” would be necessary first and that no-fracking buffer zones around homes, schools and water wells would suffice.
In other words, planning officials decided a ban wasn't favorable. Two councilman who proposed the prohibition are fuming and are laying down the law for their subordinates at City Planning.
Westside council members Mike Bonin and Paul Koretz yesterday fired off a letter to Alan Bell, deputy director of Planning, which says, among other things, that it's the council's role, not a department's, to determine the law of the municipal land.
In other words, the letter seems to suggest, You stick to doing what we say, and we'll determine whether or not to ban fracking. We reached out to Bell yesterday but had yet to hear back.
The letter says the councilmen are “extremely disappointed that the Planning Department has acted without taking the steps directed by the City Council to protect people from the potentially harmful consequences of unconventional oil drilling.”
It goes on to remind the planning chief that the council is in charge here:
As the city's publicly elected representatives, the City Council is charged with policy-making responsibilities in Los Angeles. The role of the city's departments is to help execute the decisions we make in the best interest of the people we represent. The decision made by the City Council was clear — we unanimously voted to consider an ordinance that would place a moratorium on a specific oil and gas drilling practice we have significant cause to believe is a threat to people and property in Los Angeles.
The duo concludes that Planning should “finish your work as soon as possible,” with the help of city lawyers, and return to the council with a law it can vote on.