Fracking Moratorium Bill Passes Senate Environmental Quality Committee

By Dan Bacher | May 2, 2014 | A bill imposing a moratorium on fracking and acidizing for oil extraction in California passed throug...

By Dan Bacher | May 2, 2014 |

A bill imposing a moratorium on fracking and acidizing for oil extraction in California passed through the Senate Environmental Quality Committee on April 30 by a 5 to 2 vote.

Senators Mark Leno, Jerry Hill, Loni Hancock, Hannah-Beth Jackson and Fran Pavley voted for Senate Bill 1132, while Senators Ted Gaines and Jean Fuller voted against it.

Authored by Senators Holly Mitchell and Mark Leno, SB 1132 would require the Natural Resources Agency to facilitate an "independent scientific study" on well stimulation treatments (fracking and acidizing) and their hazards and risks to natural resources and public, occupational, and environmental health and safety by January 1, 2015.

“People must come before profits,” said Senator Mitchell after the vote. “My community needs jobs, but those jobs need to be safe for workers and surrounding communities.”

The legislation also:

• Requires the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) to adopt rules and regulations for well stimulation treatments by January 1, 2015, in consultation with the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), CalRecycle, and any local air and regional water quality control boards and

• Requires DOGGR to complete a statewide environmental impact report (EIR) by July 1, 2015.

The bill allows operators to continue well stimulation practices while DOGGR completes its regulations, providing that the well owner complies with interim requirements.

A standing room only of fracking opponents, ranging from representatives of labor unions to environmental groups, packed the room.

Catherine Reheis-Boyd, President of the Western States Petroleum Association, the most powerful corporate lobbying group in Sacramento, and other opponents of the bill claimed that the environment is already protected by the passage of Senate Bill 4 last year.

“Senate Bill 4 put in the framework to make sure there is a balance between environmental protection and energy production in California,” said Reheis-Boyd. “California now has the most comprehensive regulations regarding hydraulic fracturing in the nation.”

She added that the state was the third largest consumer of oil and gas in the world, exceeded only by China and the United States – and that it needs to step up its domestic oil production to become less dependent on foreign oil arriving by tanker ships.

“I’m thrilled that the oil industry accepts Senate Bill 4, which covers all methods of oil extraction,” said Senator Holly Mitchell. However, Mitchell said that additional independent studies of the risk of fracking and acidization to human health are needed, prompting her and Leno to author Senate Bill 1132.

In response to some oil industry claims that this bill would conflict with Senate Bill 4, she emphasized, “Nothing in the intent or language of SB 1132 would derail SB 4.”

After the bill passed the Committee, representatives of Californians Against Fracking, United Native Americans and the Center for Biological Diversity commented on the victory.

“It’s exciting that Senate Bill 1132 passed through the Committee today,” said David Braun of Californians Against Fracking. “It’s another step in the right direction.”

He added that people need to keep pressure on their Legislators to make sure the bill is approved when it goes though its next hurdle, the Appropriations Committee. On April 8, the Senate Natural Resources Committee approved the bill.

According to Braun, the industry's own data indicated that 5 to 6% of the casings for fracked wells fail in the first year of operation - and 50 percent fail over a 30-year period.

“It’s great that the bill is moving forward,” said Hillary Aidun, Anti-Fracking Organizer for the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s important that so much attention has been brought to the science that demonstrates that fracking is a threat to health and the environment.”

Quanah Parker Brightman, Executive Director of United Native Americans, said, “I came here to the bring the voice of indigenous nations to the hearing.”

“I call on all tribal nations to use their sovereign immunity to pass resolutions banning fracking on indigenous lands and also to reach out to their Congressmen, Senators and other elected officials to ban fracking locally,” he noted.

Fracking has resulted in contamination of ground water and surface water supplies wherever the oil industry has used this environmentally destructive oil extraction method in the United States.

“Water is one of the four sacred elements. No matters what race or color you are, we’re all part of the human race. We have to defend Mother Earth – we don’t have another planet to go to,” he concluded.

The bill passed through Committee as Governor Jerry Brown is promoting the expansion of fracking (hydraulic fracturing) in California and the construction of the peripheral tunnels under the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP). The tunnels would provide water for corporate agribusiness, oil companies conducting fracking and steam injection operations in Kern County, and Southern California water agencies. The implementation of the tunnels plan would hasten the extinction of Central Valley salmon, Delta and longfin smelt, green sturgeon and other fish species, as well as imperil the salmon and steelhead populations of the Trinity and Klamath river.

The oil industry is the most powerful corporate lobby in Sacramento. Stop Fooling California recently released a chart revealing that the oil industry, including the Western States Petroleum Association, Chevron, BP and other oil companies, spent over $56.63 million on lobbying at the State Capitol in the five years from 2009 through 2013. 

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