Senate Hearing Will Discuss Fracking in California Today

By Dan Bacher | State Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) will co-chair a hearing on the controversial practice of hydraulic fract...

By Dan Bacher |

State Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) will co-chair a hearing on the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, “fracking,” on Tuesday, Feb. 12 at the State Capitol in Sacramento. 

“The Regulation of Hydraulic Fracturing in Oil and Gas Production in California” will be a joint hearing between the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee, chaired by Pavley, and the Senate Environmental Quality Committee, chaired by Senator Michael Rubio, D–Shafter. It will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the John L. Burton Hearing Room, room 4203 in the State Capitol Building. 

Fracking is opposed by a broad coalition of environmentalists, fishermen, tribal representatives and consumer advocates because of the threat it poses to drinking water supplies, imperiled fish populations, the environment and human health. 

The oil industry, represented by Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the President of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) and the former Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Blue Ribbon Task Force to create alleged "marine protected areas" in Southern California, has rapidly expanded fracking in recent years. 

Over 600 wells in at least nine California counties were fracked in 2011 alone. Recent advances in fracking techniques are driving a growing interest in the Monterey Shale, a geological formation holding an estimated 15 billion barrels of oil. 

According to a news release from Pavley's office, "Fracking refers to the practice of pumping water and chemicals into the ground to fracture rock, freeing the valuable oil and natural gas trapped inside to be pumped to the surface. While fracking has increased natural gas supplies and is being used to grow California’s oil production, numerous concerns have been raised around the use of toxic chemicals, groundwater contamination and other issues." 

"The main goal of the hearing will be to gain information and prompt debate about new fracking regulations proposed by the California Division of Oil Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR)," according to the release. "The speaker list includes representatives from DOGGR, the Department of Conservation, the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), Clean Water Action and numerous other entities." 

“I look forward to this opportunity to hear about both industry, environmental and community concerns with this rapidly-growing yet under-examined practice,” said Pavley. 

Pavley has also proposed legislation that calls on DOGGR to enact new regulations around fracking. "SB 4 specifies that companies engaged in fracking must notify the local community beforehand, and also disclose to DOGGR what chemicals they are using. The bill also provides trade secret protection to industry, but requires full chemical disclosure to emergency responders and health professionals if necessary," according to the release. 

However, others, including Food and Water Watch, are calling for a complete ban on fracking in California. 

The Brown administration has released draft regulations that will allow powerful oil and gas companies to continue to frack with little to no oversight, according to Adam Scow, California Campaigns Director of Food and Water Watch. Scow said the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) has released draft regulations that require some disclosure of chemicals used in the fracking process. 

"These weak regulations will not prevent the chemicals from poisoning our water and air, and they demonstrate that Governor Brown and DOGGR are siding with corporations over Californians," said Scow. "Since DOGGR is doing nothing to protect us, we need our legislators to stand up and take action. Tell your state legislators to support legislation to ban fracking before it's too late." 

To send a letter urging legislators to ban fracking, go to: 

The power of the oil industry in California is demonstrated by the alarming fact that Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the same oil lobbyist who is now leading the industry charge to expand fracking, also chaired the panel that created so-called "marine protected areas" (MPAs) in Southern California and served on the task forces that created the MPAs on the North Coast, North Central Coast and Central Coast. 

"WSPA’s position on hydraulic fracturing is well known and well documented: in the 60 years that the practice has been in use in California, there has been no evidence that it has caused harm to public health or to the environment," claimed Reheis-Boyd in her blog on the WSPA website. "Hydraulic fracturing is also subject to strict rules and oversight by various government agencies, with the industry working with regulators to further strengthen safety and transparency requirements." (

Shamefully, Natural Resources Agency and Department of Fish and Game (now Department of Fish and Wildlife) officials, the mainstream media and corporate "environmental" NGOs and foundation representatives greenwashed the key role that a powerful oil lobbyist played in "marine protection" in California. This has had dramatic consequences, since it increased the oil industry's already powerful position in California politics. 

Natural Resources Secretary John Laird, Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Chuck Bonham and other state officials have refused to address the central role that Reheis-Boyd and other corporate operatives with numerous conflicts of interest, including a coastal real estate developer and marina corporation executive, played in the implementation of the MLPA Initiative's "marine protected areas." 

Laird and MLPA advocates have also failed to address the terminally flawed and incomplete science the initiative was based upon, the overt violation of the Yurok Tribe's traditional harvesting rights and the private funding behind that initiative that have made the MLPA into one of the most bizarre cases of greenwashing in California history. 

For more information, go to: http://www.californi

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