Council Meeting Triggers Rant.

Like a growing number of folks I watched last night’s Council meeting from the comfort of my easy chair. As I watched I slid ever closer to the edge of my seat and the comments I was barking at the TV got louder and louder. Okay, forewarned is forearmed. This is a rant and you can bail out now and we’ll still be friends.

What is Council really approving?

Council is elected to make decisions in the best interest of those they serve… the ones who voted for them and those that didn’t. So why do so many issues become so politicized?

Why doesn’t staff provide all the pros and cons, including verified factual information, allowing Council to come to their own conclusions? Why do I constantly hear, “I move to approve, as presented…” – and boom! Another rubber stamp on the status quo.

council rubberstamp

Between the medical marijuana zoning ordinance and the rather contentious conclusion to jacking up our tiered water rates, I’ve never heard so much convoluted legalese and city speak tossed about. And why?

To herd Council down a trail leading to an unedited approval of staff’s grand plan.

When is the law not the law?

When it doesn’t suit the desired results sought by Planning and the City Attorney. Case in point, the medical marijuana matter was concluded based, in part, on 65 year old unsubstantiated Reefer Madness propaganda masquerading as fact.

Worse yet, though clearly pointed out by Council member Vargas, the vote for final approval included approving language stating Council verified and attested that the “facts” in the ordinance are true and correct!

Either remove the un-vetted opinion from the “Recitals” or delete the statement putting Council on the hook as validating the true and factual nature of statements. They have no means of proving anything.

“NOW, THEREFORE, the City Council of the City of Brea ordains as follows: The City Council find that the facts set forth in the Recitals, Part A, of this Ordinance are true and correct.”

One or the other has to go or it is arguable that Council is lying. I don’t care which part is nuked, just pick one and delete it… now and forever.

Also, what is all this nonsense about interim vs. permanent ordinances? Clearly, according to one City Attorney, the only real difference is an interim ordinance is a short term solution and the other is permanent (subject to amendments, remember).

The conflicting opinion is that a permanent ordinance is more defensible because it is created based upon fact and not upon urgent circumstance. Fact? Really? Go back and read my last point.

How did this get through the Planning Commission?

By the slimmest of margins following a passionate plea from the public, lengthy discussion of purpose and process by three Commissioners (two Commissioners didn’t join the discussion) and a series of three separate motions.

But did Council have the Commission’s minutes in their information packet? No. Were Commissioners contacted by Council to discuss the issues? Not that I’m aware of.

Council was told by the City Attorney that having the Planning Commission minutes would be unhelpful, offering only a bare minimum of information. Further he recommended Council listen to the streaming audio recording of the Planning Commission meeting as a better resource.

If the Commission’s minutes are unhelpful, why do them?

Council and Planning Commission minutes are created to provide a meaningful account of the business conducted – they are the official public record of the meeting. Years from now, anyone should be able to access and review these minutes and should be able to reconstruct a reasonable account of what transpired.

I have been attempting to drive this point home for two years, with two City Clerks, two City Managers and three Council members.

Action minutes, for Council and Planning Commission, where city policy and law are created, fall miserably short of fulfilling their purpose as written public record.

Don’t use the excuse that we have streaming video we can refer to, who the hell does that? Provide a reasonable summary in writing. That’s really not too much to ask. If the summary leaves me with additional questions I can turn to the video for details, but let it be my choice.

Back on topic.

Having listened to the streaming audio file for the January 26 Planning Commission meeting, it is abundantly clear that the audio quality is intermittent at best with much content being unintelligible.

I’m told this is attributable to two things. One – Commission members need additional instruction on how to properly use the new equipment, and two – as is common practice with Council meetings, Communications Department staff should be present to monitor recording quality.

Okay, so the Planning Commission audio file is virtually useless to Council.

Last night’s rush to judgment ran roughshod over common sense for the sake of kicking the can down the road and clearing the agenda. In the future I wish Council would leave the politics out and make a more concerted effort to get it right the first time. Its damn poor policy to keep falling back on the excuse that it’s easy to amend stuff later should circumstances change.

Really, when has that ever happened?

Again, case in point, since the Central Park Village Brea project was approved, has Council revisited the CFD and Mello-Roos issues that were swept under the rug? No.

How many other open ended issues have disappeared into the fog of history? We can’t even go back and review past minutes to answer that question. Per City Attorney Markman, “The law only requires action minutes and record of the vote.”

What about the spirit of the law Mr. Markman? What will it take to shift “transparency” from being a campaign buzzword to how this city conducts it’s business? What will it take to institute a level of accountability into how this city conducts it’s business that will help Breans to begin to trust local government again?

One final thought.

When a motion dies for lack of a second it’s a slap in the face to the one making the motion. I’ll refrain from suggesting what epithet accompanies the assault, but you might as well raise middle fingers in unison as you sit there mute.

Roy Moore once said that he often seconded motions with which he was in opposition if for no other reason than to demonstrate respect for his peers and afford them the opportunity to have their ideas discussed. Amen Roy.

For all Council’s continued yammering about respect and professional courtesy, letting a motion die for lack of a second belays all that. It is unconscionable. It is unacceptable.

council rubberstamp

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.