Fracking bill moves forward in California Legislature
With oil companies touting the potential of hydraulic fracturing in California, state lawmakers considered the first of several bills Tuesday to address the controversial oil extraction method commonly known as "fracking."
The Senate Natural Resources Committee passed a measure that would require energy firms to notify property owners before using the procedure near their land.
Fracking, which involves injecting chemical-laced water and sand into the ground to break apart rock and release natural gas and oil, has drawn the greatest attention in the Rocky Mountain West and Northeast, where states have debated moratoriums to develop regulations after toxic chemicals were found in nearby drinking water.
While fracking is widely used in California to tap oil deposits, state regulators have yet to develop rules or reporting requirements, causing growing anxiety in communities across the state.
On Tuesday, state Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) described her notification bill as the "necessary first step to begin collecting data on fracking in California." She said oil companies would have to give their neighbors 30-days notice before fracking, "just like you would be expecting your neighbor to put up a sign if they were adding a second story" to their house.
"The purpose of this bill is not to stop fracking," Pavley said. "It's a good-government kind of approach."
Representatives from the oil industry opposed the measure, saying they supported separate legislation that requires public disclosure within 60 days after fracking.
"We support disclosure. We support transparency. We believe in the technology," said Paul Deiro, a lobbyist for the Western States Petroleum Assn. But, he added, "pre-notification is a step too far."
Deiro said the advance notice would reveal proprietary information and undercut competitive advantages for oil companies. He also said the legislation would hurt the flexibility of energy firms who are at the whims of the service contractors they hire to operate wells.
The Democratic bill passed on a party-line vote, 5-3. It now moves to the Senate Environmental Quality Committee.
--Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento
Photo: A gas pipeline juts from the landscape at a farm outside Dimock, Pa. Credit: Jim Lo Scalzo / EPA