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Beyond Same-Sex Marriage
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California’s On Shore Oil Drilling
O n June 29, 2006 the House of Representatives voted to lift the federal moratorium on offshore oil drilling in areas that had been offlimits due to the potential environmental impact. In California oil drilling brings to mind the dozen or so offshore oil drilling platforms in the Santa Barbara Channel that are so visible from Highway 101.
Yet the real action is not happening in the Santa Barbara Channel or on the Texas Gulf Coast, but instead inland in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Although the on shore risk of environmental damage may appear to be less than offshore, there is a tradeoff between spilled oil spreading on the ocean surface versus oil soaking deep into the soil. Far removed from the main highways and, hence, out of the public view is a vast stretch of land nestled against the hills that separate the San Joaquin Valley from the delicate ecosystem of the Carrizo Plain National Monument. Some of the densest oilfields in the world lie on approximately 130,000 acres (200 square miles) of land stretching from McKittrick towards Lost Hills in the north to Maricopa in the south and centered around the town of Taft.
The area includes the Midway Sunset oilfield, the largest in the U.S. outside of Alaska, currently with 9,935 producing wells, according to the California Department of Conservation database for 2006. Other oilfields are North and South Belridge with over 5,845 active wells, Lost Hills with 2,308 wells, Cymric with 1,652 wells, McKittrick with 395 wells, Buena Vista with 457 wells, and McDonald with 47 producing wells. The principal operators are Aera Energy (a joint venture of Shell and ExxonMobil) and ChevronTexaco. The adjacent Elk Hills Naval Petroleum Reserve was sold by the U.S. Department of Energy to Occidental Petroleum in 1998 for $3.65 billion, in the largest privatization of federal property in U.S. history. At the time of the sale, it had 900 producing wells, according to DOE records. With soaring crude oil prices, that number grew to 2,003 producing wells by January 2006.
The more than 22,600 producing wells of the McKittrickTaftMari copa area dwarf anything that is happening off California’s coast. They collectively represent over 60 percent of all oil wells currently operating in California and account for approximately 10 percent of total U.S. crude oil production. While most oil spills have been relatively contained, the area has a history of oil gushers that have spilled thousands of gallons of crude oil into the surrounding soil. The full potential impact on the environment of oil drilling on such a scale has never been fully evaluated under public scrutiny.
The Edmund G. Brown California Aqueduct runs through the Buena Vista and Elk Hills oilfields. Many oil wells are active along both sides of its banks, so an oil well fire or spill could easily contaminate water flowing in the aqueduct that forms an important component of the Los Angeles water supply. Full evaluation of these risks will happen only if the people of California are aware of the extent of crude oil production hidden in their own backyard and demand public oversight.
Sharat G. Lin, PhD is an analyst and writer on global economic, political, and environmental affairs.
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
Contact: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; email@example.com; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; convention @adc. org http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljustice center.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www. peacestockvfp.org.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.