Old adages aside, is it actually true that nothing good ever happens after 2 a.m.? Sitting for ten hours in the back of the room at a public hearing of the Carson City Council this week, I’m now officially convinced that it is.
First, a bit of background: Last month, the Carson City Council announced its intention to take up and vote on a resolution calling on California to ban the use of hydraulic fracturing, notwithstanding the fact that it’s a technology that’s been used safely in our state for more than 60 years. Because I was apparently born last week, I expected the hearing and subsequent council vote to based on the facts – and for council members to be engaged on the issue, and in full possession of their faculties of analysis and reason.
Of course, Carson was following in the footsteps of Culver City, which earlier this month passed a purely symbolic resolution of its own at the behest of activists, calling on California to place a moratorium on the completion of oil and gas wells in our state. Unfortunately, the fact that more than one million American jobs owe their existence to energy production from shale and other “tight” reservoirs didn’t mean much to the large crowd of professional activists in Culver City, either.
The Carson fracturing resolution, like Culver City’s before it, was full of myths and distortions pushed by Food & Water Watch of Washington, D.C., and other activist groups with extreme views on energy and environmental policy. But unlike Culver City, there wasn’t a large group of activists to speak against fracturing in Carson. In fact, besides one local resident who showed up and spoke (and who had comments on several other resolutions before the council that evening), I was the only speaker during the public comment period on the fracturing resolution. The only one.
With no one present to speak in support of the resolution, and with someone presenting a wealth of contrary fact, you’d think there might be some discussion, right? Unfortunately, no. By the time the resolution was taken up, it was 3:55 a.m., the Council having spent ten hours dealing with countless other issues. And, without even a whisper of debate or deliberation, it passed the resolution unanimously not two minutes after I finished speaking.
When you read the resolution closely, you’ll understand why this was such a disheartening outcome for anyone who believes in participatory democracy. The only sources cited in the council staff report supporting the resolution were Food & Water Watch’s website (the URL was misspelled) and ProPublica, an advocacy journalism outfit that’s particularly hostile toward shale.