In coming CA fracking war, will unions be Oxy’s surprise ally?

April 21, 2013

By Chris Reed

oxy_hq-306x224The coming battle over fracking in California is going to be a doozy. There’s too much money to be made in the “brown energy” revolution for monied interests to not pursue the reserves in the Monterey Shale.

Soon to be the face of evil in California: Occidental Petroleum. As I wrote about last year, the company is already poised to pounce in the Central Valley:

“Even if California’s media haven’t caught on to the state’s potential for a Bakken-style economic boom, the oil industry has. By far the BLM’s biggest 2011 lease [for use of federal land for oil and gas exploration in California] was the $180,000 paid for a 200-acre parcel by Vintage Production California, a Bakersfield-based subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum, the third-largest U.S. oil and gas producer. On Oxy’s website, it estimates the shale reserves on California land it already controls to have over 20 billion barrels of potential oil — a claim that the company says is made in accordance with the Securities and Exchange Commission’s rule that only ‘economically producible’ reserves can be cited in SEC filings.”

Now the Ventura County Star reports that Oxy, as it is known, is busy in the coastal county as well:

“Anticipating that new drilling techniques will make it possible to tap vast oil reserves thought to be unrecoverable, a Los Angeles-based oil company has been aggressively securing mineral rights beneath thousands of acres of Ventura County land.

“Documents filed with the Ventura County Recorder’s Office show that Vintage Petroleum, a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum, has entered into 192 lease agreements over the past six months in deals involving at least 9,000 acres.

“Most of the leases, largely on rural land in the Santa Paula-Fillmore area, were recorded during the last week of March.

“’They’re making a big play,’ said attorney Stuart Nielson, whose A to Z law firm in Oxnard has represented several of the lessors.

“Nielson said the pace of oil-leasing activity is unlike anything Ventura County — once a more prolific oil-producing area — has seen in decades. Most of the oil rights involved have long been dormant.”

An interesting angle to the coming fight is where will unions choose to stand. Will they go along with the myth that fracking is hell on earth, as opposed to just another heavy industry? Given that the drilling business is mostly unionized, and that gas-exploration jobs are among the best-paying around for those without college degrees, fracking supporters might not be as outmatched by California’s multitude of greens as one might think.

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