After months of public concern about oil well fracking – and industry assurances that proper safeguards are in place – experts on the oil extraction method are scheduled Tuesday to answer questions from the public about its impact on water quality, earthquakes and other issues.
Several hundred people are expected to attend the fracking symposium organized by Cal State Fullerton that features industry representatives and experts on the science and regulatory rules of fracking and other oil extraction methods.
The forum was requested by Fullerton city officials after fracking sparked community concerns there and across north county several months ago.
Data from state water officials shows that six oil wells have been fracked in Yorba Linda, some of which are in the middle of residential neighborhoods.
Residents in north Orange County have been organizing against fracking, which has also been conducted near homes just north of Brea.
The debate comes amid a nationwide debate over fracking, known officially as hydraulic fracturing.
As it becomes more and more difficult for oil and gas to be extracted through traditional drilling methods, companies have been turning to fracking, which involves injecting a high-pressure mix of water, sand and chemicals underground to break up rock formations containing fuel.
The method has been praised as the possible trigger for an economic boom that will create millions of jobs nationwide and help shift America from its dependence on foreign energy sources.
But fracking has also come under intense scrutiny for its potential environmental impacts, including unknown chemicals reaching drinking water supplies and the possibility fracking can cause small earthquakes.
A group of activists recently appealed to Orange County supervisors to implement a countywide ban on fracking until the method is further studied.
An industry representative, meanwhile, urged supervisors to allow state studies and regulations to play themselves out before considering local regulations.
Panelists expected to speak at the symposium are U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Robert Graves, Cal State Fullerton hydrogeology professor W. Richard Laton, South Coast Air Quality Management District strategic initiatives director Susan Nakamura, hydrogeologist Mark Zeko, oil company executive Trent Rosenlieb of LINN Energy and Steve Bohlen, a top oil regulator with the state government.
The forum is slated to be moderated by Cal State Fullerton earthquake seismology professor David Bowman.
In preparation for the event, concerned residents prepared detailed questions about fracking and its potential impacts, according to Brea-based blogger and commentator Rick Clark.
Clark said he and others will be watching closely to check for potential biases among the expert panelists.
For those who can’t make it to the event, live video of the discussion is expected to be streamed online.