Senate Committee Approves Fracking Moratorium Bill

By Dan Bacher | April 12, 2014 The California Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water on April 8 passed SB 1132, legislation t...

By Dan Bacher | April 12, 2014

The California Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water on April 8 passed SB 1132, legislation that will place a moratorium on fracking (hydraulic fracturing) and well stimulation until the state fully studies the impact of the oil extraction on California's air and water quality, public health and economy.

The bill, authored by Senator Holly Mitchell and Senator Mark Leno, will next be considered by the Senate Environmental Quality Committee on April 30t 2014.

The legislation, approved by a 5 to 2 vote as anti-fracking activists packed the State Captiol hearing room, would expand the current study focused on the environmental and public health effects of fracking to include the economic costs and harms, effects on private property and land use, and risks to worker safety, according to a statement from a coalition of groups.

The Committee vote took place as California reels from a record drought and Governor Jerry Brown continues to support the expansion of fracking in California and the construction of the fish-killing peripheral tunnels under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP).

“A moratorium on fracking is especially critical as California faces a severe drought with water resources at an all-time low,” said Senator Mark Leno. “We are currently allowing fracking operations to expand despite the potential consequences on our water supply, including availability and price of water, the potential for drinking water contamination and the generation of billions of barrels of polluted water.’’

“There are a million Angelenos that live within a 5-mile radius of the largest urban oil field in the country,” said Senator Holly Mitchell, whose predominantly minority district includes the Inglewood Oil Field. “In my district vulnerable neighborhoods lie adjacent to drilling operations whose practices go largely unregulated.”

A broad coalition of environmental, labor, public health, and business groups applauded the Committee’s vote, noting that the body of research around correlations between fracking and public health concerns, water pollution and increased seismic activity is “growing.”

"The bill indicates that California should take a pause on all fracking activity until the threats it presents are better understood and we can ensure the safety of our air, water and climate,” they said in a joint statement.

Food and Water Watch, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club, CREDO Action, the Physicians for Social Responsibility and many other groups praised the passage of the bill.

"A moratorium on fracking is a crucial and necessary measure towards protecting California's water and family farmers,” said Adam Scow, California Director of Food & Water Watch. “We applaud the Senate Committee's passage of SB 1132 to stop the oil industry's irresponsible and harmful pollution of our water, air, and soil."

"Fracking and well stimulation are not California's solution to a safe secure energy future,” said Kathryn Phillips, Director, Sierra Club California. The latest science shows that fracking and well stimulation create air pollution, water pollution and other impacts that jeopardize public health, the environment and economic sustainability. Californians have said repeatedly, in so many ways, that they want a state where they can breathe clean air and drink clean water. The committee's vote today brings us a step closer to achieving that."

"The California Senate's advancement of this moratorium legislation is a crucial step toward protecting our air and water from fracking pollution,” said Brian Nowicki, California Climate Policy Director, Center for Biological Diversity. "Fracking is a toxic technique that threatens our health, our climate, and our precious water supply. Sacramento lawmakers should move quickly to pass this bill and halt fracking before irreparable damage is done to our state."

Zack Malitz, CREDO Campaign Manager, said, "This vote is a wakeup call for Governor Brown. Every day more elected officials in California go on the record in support of a moratorium on fracking, putting enormous pressure on Governor Brown to split with Big Oil and return to the climate leadership he showed earlier in his political career."

"Physicians and other health professionals throughout California recognize the significant potential public and environmental health impacts of fracking because of increased threats posed by associated air pollution, groundwater contamination, and seismic activity,” said Robert M. Gould, President, San Francisco Bay Area Chapter, Physicians for Social Responsibility. “California should ensure that it is strongly protected against these impacts before allowing fracking to continue here."

On the other hand, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association, the most powerful corporate lobbying group in Sacramento, is strongly opposing the legislation. She claimed that expanded fracking operations could result in up to 200,000 new jobs in the Central Valley.

"It brings the opportunity to turn around the domestic (petroleum) production from on a slight decline to stable to increase,” said Reheis-Boyd, the former chaird of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative Blue Ribbon Task Force to create fake, oil industry-friendly “marine protected areas” in southern Calfornia, as quoted by KCRA TV in Sacramento. “And so the job potential -- let's say in the Central Valley -- is 200,000 jobs."

Caleen Sisk, Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, says fracking, a form of "extreme mining" that uses large quantities of water, is closely linked with the Bay Delta Conservation Plan to build the peripheral tunnels and the federal proposal to raise Shasta Dam, since these projects will supply the water to expand fracking in Kern County and coastal areas. The dam raise and tunnel plan will flood many of the Tribe's remaining sacred sites not already inundated by Shasta Dam - and will result in the extermination of wild Chinook salmon, a fish that is sacred to the Tribe.

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