Fracking Tests Ties Between California ‘Oil and Ag’ Interests

Scattered on either side of Shafter Avenue just north of the town center here, new oil pump jacks, some bobbing and others thrusting, tower above this corner of California’s prime farmland.

A dirt side road, flanked by an orchard of two-year-old almond trees and a field of alfalfa plants, leads to a two-acre patch where workers were drilling a third well. At a larger rig not too far away, next to a field of potatoes, a 50-foot-tall tower flared off the gas from the crude being extracted from land that used to be a rose field. At yet another site next to almond trees, a fence now surrounds an area where liquids from hydraulic fracturing, the drilling technique commonly known as fracking, leaked into an open pit.

Driven by advances in drilling technology and high oil prices, oil companies are increasingly moving into traditionally agricultural areas like Shafter that make up one of the world’s most fertile regions but also lie above a huge untapped oil reserve called the Monterey Shale. Even as California’s total oil production has declined slightly since 2010, the output of the North Shafter oil field and the number of wells have risen by more than 50 percent.

Read full text at The New York Times