State Announces Legislation on Fracking

April 04, 2013

Topanga Messenger

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SACRAMENTO, CA, March 21, 2013—Assembly Member Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica, Chair of Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Natural Resources and Transportation) has introduced legislation (AB 1301) to impose a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) operations until state regulators can develop regulations that protect public health and safety and address other environmental concerns.

Meanwhile, Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), announced several key amendments to her bill, SB 4, to regulate “fracking,” for oil and gas within California. The changes come in the wake of extensive input from stakeholder groups and the public, as well as analysis of other states’ policies.

Fracking operations have skyrocketed in recent years throughout the country and in California as new technologies have enabled the extraction of oil and natural gas deposits from previously unreachable geological formations. Fracking uses and produces highly toxic chemicals that pose serious threats to public health and the environment.

The threat is significant enough that 14 states have now enacted legislation restricting or banning the practice altogether until safeguards are in place. Currently, California does not regulate or monitor fracking despite holding the largest oil reserve in the continental United States, the Monterey Shale, a portion of which comprises the communities of Agoura Hills, Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Hollywood, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica, Topanga, West Hollywood, and West Los Angeles.

“It shocks me that we pride ourselves on being a national leader on environmental protection, yet we have allowed this activity to occur largely unregulated,” said Bloom. “California regulates massage therapists more than hydraulic fracturing.”

Because fracking is unregulated, the California Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR), the agency responsible for providing oil and gas well permits, is unable to report on where fracking has occurred. State regulators have little knowledge of what chemicals have been used, cannot notify people if fracking is occurring in their communities, and are unable to determine if fracking is polluting groundwater or impacting air quality. Public health and environmental problems related to fracking have been documented in Colorado, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Pavley’s bill requires companies to obtain a state-issued permit to frack; to notify neighboring property owners 30 days ahead of time; to disclose to the state all of the chemicals used to frack in a particular location.

At its end, the state must complete an independent scientific study on fracking by January 1, 2015; to develop its own web-site for fracking fluid reporting by January 1, 2016; monitoring costs associated with fracking, including air and water quality monitoring, as well as the scientific study. By January 1, 2015, the administration would also be required to issue its final regulations, and to enter into formal agreements with water boards and other regulators in order to specify responsibilities around air and water monitoring.

“The rules within SB 4 are merely the kind of common-sense protections needed for any potentially hazardous industrial activity, let alone one that is rapidly expanding in our state,” said Sen. Pavley. “While the industry correctly notes that fracking has been going on in California for 60 years, many of the techniques and chemicals are new, as is the immense scale of many of these operations.”