Voters Sweep Brea Clean!

Operation Clean SweepA week ago today, Brea voters and Operation Clean Sweep succeeded in rebooting City Council! Welcome and congratulations to Cecilia Hupp, Steve Vargas and Glenn Parker. Your convincing win confirms that Brea voters, eager to turn around a floundering Council, see something in you they like.

To whom much is given, much is expected. Simply put, privilege brings responsibility and that responsibility entails accountability. Now is the time to set aside personality conflicts and petty grievances. Too many serious issues are tucked into your information packets and need your undivided attention.

Brea Matters (Voters) Wade In.

While waiting for the dust to settle and the provisional votes to be tallied, I invited Brea Matters readers (voters) to tell me how they see the issues stacking up. Thanks to all who took the time to share their thoughts. Here are the top three issues.

Unfunded Pension Liability.

The small contribution now required of new hires, bolstered by similar changes in state regulation, have slowed the rate of debt increase… slightly. The escalation of unfunded debt has neither been reversed nor solved.

The problem is still our largest fiscal nightmare. You will not be able to nudge pension reform into existence. Nothing less than sweeping change, with the full participation of the beneficiaries, will address this issue.

Water, The Currency Of Tomorrow.

The drought is real. This chronic shortage is effecting more than shorelines. It is the catalyst behind Brown’s Measures 1 and 2. The real effects of their passage will likely come as a shock to voters who cast their ballot in favor.

Our tiered water rates, still on the back burner awaiting the San Juan Capistrano decision, will be pulled to the front burner when the state’s budget based water rates enter the discussion. Brea is already giving the state detailed monthly water consumption data.

Once the camel’s head is in the tent it’s ass is soon to follow. The state will insert itself into the water business and it won’t make more water available or lower your rates.

With Silver Bells And Cockle Shells.

On a semi-related note, the drought tolerant demonstration garden rushed to approval a few weeks ago enjoys zero public support. None. Nada.

Beyond a small consulting contract, no other handcuffs exist. No RFQ has been drafted or circulated. No bids have been submitted, reviewed or approved.

Put the garden back on the agenda. Recognize it for what it is, a boondoggle. A complete waste of a quarter million dollars. Reverse the original decision. Terminate the project. Fix the leak in the subterranean parking using the Building Maintenance Fund.

Fracking, A Black Hole Of Deception.

The most significant missing component in fracking’s risk/reward equation is truth.

Truth about water, how it is combined with which chemicals or acids, where it comes from in the first place, how it is handled during the process and where it goes when disposed of. Truth about noxious fumes. How much methane and other hazardous gases are really escaping from wells, how far might they travel in the air, what are the risks of exposure or inhalation?

Truth about potential failure of equipment or of human error. Truth in documentation, willingness to be subject to regulation, oversight and enforcement of noncompliance or infraction.

Council may be comfortable, for whatever reasons, peeking through the wool pulled over their eyes… but a significant number of Breans do not share their complacency. They’ve read about thousands of incidents, from unfortunate to catastrophic, where people’s health and safety was put at risk, where the environment was put at risk, where seismic concerns grew exponentially over just a few years.

What we don’t know could kill us. That is not Chicken Little screaming, “The sky is falling!” That is not some conspiracy theorist’s attempt at scare tactics. That is the unvarnished truth. Until we know more, until oil companies are more forthcoming, until regulatory agencies are able to oversee the industry without having their hands tied by state and federal intervention… the smart thing to do is put a moratorium in place.

A Laundry List Continually Overlooked.

These “lesser” more procedural issues will sound familiar. Why? Because they’ve been at the center of campaign promises, half-hearted studies by overpaid consultants and counterfeit community conversations for years. They are in no particular order.

  • Inattention to public comment during Matters From The Audience.
  • Disregard of public comment during Matters From The Audience.
  • Growing abandonment of meaningful public hearings.
  • General lack of transparency and accountability.
  • Too much business conducted in study session.
  • Too many items buried on the Consent Calendar.
  • Failure to faithfully implement Measure T.
  • Runaway senior staff salaries and the ten city survey.
  • Satisfactory resolution of former RDA projects.
  • Consistent and equitable support of the business community.
  • Traffic congestion.
  • Open discussion of possible public safety JPA’s.
  • Declining senior services.
  • Street sweeping citations.
  • Decline of Lagos de Moreno Park.

A Show Of Good Faith.

Pass an ordinance limiting political/campaign signage to a maximum of 500 square inches and a display period, on public and private property, no more than 90 days prior to the election. Pass a resolution limiting campaign expenditures to no more than $10,000, campaign mailing pieces to no more than two. Pass a resolution limiting Council seats to no more than two terms.

Do the right thing. Without your honorable preemptive resolution of these issues, please believe that the public is willing and able to gather the necessary signatures and put them on the ballot.

In Conclusion…

Arguably the most disconnected, delusional, Council member in recent history was held accountable for his lack of performance and overwhelmingly denied reelection to a second term.

Members of Council, this is meant as a reminder, not a threat. Brea voters have extended to Council members, new and old, the privilege of representing their best interests. Expect to be held accountable.

 

True Or False, Council Understands Fracking?

False.

At Tuesday’s study session, Council member Simonoff asked for the Linn Energy presentation to be pulled from the agenda because equal time had not been extended to the resident’s group to put their counterpoint and concerns on the table. Simonoff’s request was dismissed.

Alejandra CrespoDuring Matters from the Audience, Brea resident Alejandra Crespo chastised the Mayor reminding him of his campaign promises and his failure to deliver upon them.

She reminded the Mayor of the promise made by City Manager Tim O’Donnell over a month earlier, to put fracking on the agenda so she and her citizens group could present their position to Council.

She added, “This likely impedes our First Amendment rights… our right to have equal time.” To read Alejandra’s full comments, click here.

anthony_xA dozen other speakers added their personal apprehensions about the increasing fracking in Brea. The only speaker in support of fracking was, Anthony Thomas, Director of Government Affairs for the California Petroleum Industry Association (CIPA).

This is a trade association of crude oil and natural gas producers, royalty members (Brea maybe? We received $350,000 in oil royalties last year), service and supply companies. Who invited Mr. Thomas, an oil lobbyist splitting his time between Los Angeles and Sacramento, and how much credence should we give his remarks?

Setting the stage.

mario_xMario Maldenado, the newly hired assistant to the City Manager, was handed the thankless task of opening the presentation. Charactering the presentation as a “fact finding endeavor” turned out to be a stretch given how few facts were actually shared.

Of the five oil companies operating in Brea (Linn Energy, LLC, Aera Energy, Breitburn Energy PartnersCooper & Brain, and Thompson Energy) all but Linn denied fracking locally. 

jennifer_xJennifer Hefner, also a Brean, well aware of the history of catastrophic accidents and pollution costs associated with energy production, joined many of her neighbors concerned about the effects of increased fracking in Brea and sat through last Tuesday’s presentation to Council by Linn Energy. Here is her firsthand reaction.

“Mayor Murdock, admitting he knew little about fracking, decided to use Tuesday’s meeting (07/15/14) to let Linn Energy representatives offer the oil and gas industry’s spin on the growing debate over health, safety, environmental and possible seismic risks.

I sat watching this disgusting display wondering why the Mayor does not care about the citizens of the community. After all, isn’t he part of this community? Murdock got elected mostly because our children, mine included, received swim lessons under his watch.

brett_xWe’re at another sink or swim moment. Do I dare put my children’s safety in his hands again? Absolutely not.

The Mayor, admittedly ignorant on the subject of fracking, turned his back on those of us who have invested countless hours studying this issue in great detail.

Instead he gave Linn Energy the opportunity to spin the issues in their favor. Linn’s objective was clearly to lull Council and Breans into a false sense of security.

I emailed Murdock and the other Council members three months ago, just after the earthquake, asked them about these issues. Not one even had the courtesy to acknowledge receipt of my email… let alone respond. Murdock has done a great disservice to those he was elected to represent and, quite possibly, infringed on our rights in the process.”

The cast of characters.

trent_xTrent R. Rosenleib, is a petroleum engineer and Assett Manager, Linn Engineering. He has a lengthy background in the Oil and Gas industry. He came to Linn from Berry Petroleum Company via Linn’s acquisition in December of last year and operates from Linn’s Bakersfield office.

Juan Chacon, Linn Engineering petroleum engineer.

dave_xDave Quast, California Director of Energy in Depth, a research and education program of the Independent Petroleum Association of America and the California Independent Petroleum Association (likely the connection to Anthony Thomas).

Mr. Rosenleib and Mr. Quast share a common objective, to promote, propagandize, defend and protect the oil and gas industry from all who would impede it’s progress. Their presentations were laced with well parsed language designed to dodge direct questions, mask facts in language purposed to confuse the uninitiated and invent new language to hide the real risks of fracking.

One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor.

christine_xWhen asked, point blank, about wells being fracked up to twenty times, the response was, “It is only done once.” However he admitted that, routinely, a high pressure injection of large amounts of acidized water are reinjected back into wells to unplug blockages and revive wells back into full production.

They like to call that routine maintenance but it’s fracking… pure and simple. They also admitted that this is usually done every 2 to 3 years for the life of the well.

council_xIf fracking is defined as a single fracture of deep shale, that would put the question to bed.

But when highly toxic fluid is repeatedly injected under high pressure, retrieved and recycled year after year, under the guise of routine maintenance, their answer is false.

If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck… it’s a duck! Wells can be fracked up to 20 times during their lifespan. Own it!

And this begs the subsequent questions, how is this toxic hazardous waste handled between fracks? How is it moved? Where is it stored?

And, what’s really getting pumped in?

brett-christineAgain, to give us a false sense of comfort, we were shown a few household cleaning products as examples of fracking fluid ingredients.

Truth? Fracking fluid, mostly what they refer to as brackish produced water, is adulterated with variety of chemicals—among them methanol, formaldehyde, ethylene glycol, hydrochloric acid, and sodium hydroxide. Yeah, I’ll wager you don’t have any of that stuff hanging around under your sink.

Rosenleib said if you want to know what chemicals are being used, go to the new website FracFocus Chemical Disclosure Registry. Now we can get the info we want! False. The site is only populated with data for Kern County and there is no indication when Orange County data will be added.

Did the well Stearn 168 spring a leak?

Stearn 168 (API No. 04-059-06923), on Monday, February 10, 2014, experienced a drop in pressure and upon investigation it was reported that there was a hole in the casing. When your blood pressure suddenly drops there is a distinct possibility you’re bleeding out. What really happened at Stearn 168? Was there any contamination? Where can we go to get answers to these questions. DOGGR? False. Try it for yourself.

If your curiosity is peaked, here’s more.

garcia_xHere are five articles that, if you’re serious about understanding this “risk resistant” side of the discussion… click away.

We’re all interesting in seeing the US become energy independent, but at what cost?

Fracking on the fringes of Orange County, with little oversight.

(08/29/13) – California Department of Oil, Gas & Geothermal (DOGGR) spokesman Don Drysdale, told the OC Weekly that while fracking regulations are currently being crafted in California, there is little oversight of the practice.

Fracking waste is contaminating California aquifers.

(07/18/14) – In June 2011, the EPA conducted a review of other aspects of California’s injection well program and found enforcement, testing and oversight problems so significant that the agency demanded California improve its regulations and warned that the state’s authority could be revoked. California has not yet completed its review of its underground injection program, according to state officials.

Pennsylvania appeals court affirms city rights.

(07/17/14) – A Pennsylvania appeals court issued a split decision on the state’‍s oil and gas law, affirming the rights of municipalities to regulate the location of oil and gas development.

One million gallons of fracking brine spill near reservation water supply.

(07/11/14) – Fracking brine is the much toxic unwanted byproduct of the fracking process, the sludge left after the job’s done, and it’s laced with mystery toxins the public is not allowed to know anything about.

Groundwater Contamination Due To Fracking Flowback.

(06/26/14) – Research has shown 10 to 40 percent of the water and chemical solution mixture injected at high pressure into deep rock strata, surges back to the surface during well development.

markman_xThis is a risk v. reward situation and as the article about city rights above suggests, Brea does have options. City Attorney Markman even went so far, in response to a question from Roy Moore, to say that given proof of injury the City could say no to fracking.

To make an intelligent decision, we all need to understand the full extent of the risks produced by fracking. We should not let the oil and gas industry, like big tobacco, like big banking, like big pharma, get away with virtually zero effective oversight and disclosure.