Senate panel supports California 'fracking' moratorium
The legislation, AB 972 by Assemblywoman Betsy Butler (D-Marina del Rey), passed the Senate Environmental Quality Committee on Monday on a party-line vote, 5-2. Democrats supported the measure while Republicans opposed it.
Butler has said she is pushing a moratorium on "fracking" because of concerns about the potential environmental and public health hazards of a procedure that involves injecting chemical-laced water and sand deep into the ground to tap oil.
Representatives of the energy industry say oil companies have used hydraulic fracturing in California for decades without incident.
Much of the anxiety stems from the fact that, unlike other oil-producing states, California does not require oil companies to disclose where they use the procedure or what chemicals they inject into the ground. State regulators asked firms to volunteer that information in March and are now soliciting public comment on fracking, the first step in what is expected to be a lengthy rule-making process.
In introducing her measure last month, Butler said that was insufficient.
"I think it's fine that they're getting community input, but it's not fast enough and it's not soon enough," she said. "It's a process that needs to be regulated before we're out there doing it."
The bill now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Its prospects are unclear. The legislation faces stiff opposition from the oil industry, which successfully lobbied lawmakers earlier this year to reject a bill that would have required energy firms to notify property owners before using hydraulic fracturing on or near their land.
Monday's vote came on the same day that the GOP-led Legislature in North Carolina voted to lift that state's ban on hydraulic fracturing. According to the Charlotte Observer, lawmakers overturned Gov. Beverly Perdue's veto of a bill that opens the door to shale gas exploration in the state.
Republicans achieved the narrow victory after a Democratic lawmaker pushed the wrong button and voted to override the veto, the newspaper said.
-- Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento
Photo: A fracking operation on leased farmland near Dimock, Pa. Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times