It was standing room only at on Tuesday night, as close to 450 people packed the council chambers and an overflow room at the State Department of Conservation’s meeting on fracking.
People came from all over the county, not just Culver City and Baldwin Hills. There were concerned residents from Carson, Orange County, the Valley, even Calabasas. They all waited patiently in a long line to approach the podium and address representatives from the Division of Oil Gas and Geothermal Resources about their concerns about fracking.
The meeting was scheduled to run from 7-9 p.m. but it was close to 10:30 p.m. by the time everyone had had a chance to speak.
Prior to the meeting, scores of people turned up to take part in a protest outside City Hall, calling for a ban on fracking, organized by together with Citizens Coalition for a Safe Community.
Small groups of people bearing placards reading “No Fracking Way,” and “Ban Fracking,” formed into clusters and walked around the crosswalks at Culver Boulevard and Dusqesne Avenue chanting “Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Oil Wells Have Got to Go!” and “What Do We Want? Clean Water! When Do We Want It? Now!” (See photos and accompanying captions, above).
Among the attendees were Heather and her 5-year-old daughter, Sylvie, who held a placard proclaiming: No Fracking in My Backyard or Anyone Else’s!
Heather, who lives on the Culver City border said she brought her daughter to the protest because, “It’s outrageous that they’re doing this [fracking] and there are no regulations. I feel it’s important to be active when you think something’s wrong and it’s one of the most important things you can teach a child.”
Asked if Sylvie understood what was going on, Heather said, “She knows that people are here because they’re mad and she doesn’t want the water to be dirty. She also knows that the honking is good.”
The honking in question came from dozens of drivers as a show of support as they sped past City Hall and saw the protest banners. “Honk if you love clean water,” one of the protesters cried.
Inside City Hall, Mayor Andy Weissman received huge applause for his opening remarks calling on DOGGRR to guarantee people’s safety before attempting to regulate fracking.
Despite the State’s brief overview of fracking practices and assurances that it was safe, well regulated, and had been since it began in the 1950s, attendees did not appear to be swayed. One person even yelled out in chambers, “We don’t believe you!”
DOGRR Supervisor Tim Kestuk and Chief Deputy Director Jason Marshall maintained their composure as they fielded comments from concerned and at times, irate residents.
By and large, speakers either called for a moratorium or a complete ban on fracking until the full effects of it are known. Many spoke about their concerns that the oil companies refuse to divulge the chemicals they are using during the fracking process.
Former Culver City Mayor Gary Silbiger stated, “We are not at a point in time where it has been determined that fracking is safe when regulated. We don't want to regulate something that is harmful to our community… we want it banned.
Vice Mayor Jeff Cooper said, “My job is to protect the health and safety of our residents. It would be unconscionable to do anything less than encourage you to take a moratorium against fracking until strict regulations can be developed.”
Former City Treasurer Crystal Alexander said, “Do not let Culver City enter the history books as a name for another environmental disaster,” referring to both the New York Love Canal environmental disaster in the 1970s and the recent BP oil spill disaster in the Gulf states.
Following the meeting Mayor Weissman told Patch, "I am proud that Culver City offered the use of City Hall to DOGGR for its workshop. I am grateful to DOGGR for staying beyond its scheduled 9 p.m. cutoff to allow the community to express its views. After all, hearing from the public is what the workshop was intended for. For me, success is not measured by the tremendous turnout. The measure of success will be in the strength of whatever regulations are ultimately adopted by the State to protect the public health, safety and the environment.
Editor's note: All photos and accompanying captions by Kate Parkinson-Morgan.
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