Two Bills to Regulate Fracking Die in the Legislature

Monday, August 20, 2012

California lawmakers won’t be taking any action in this legislative session to regulate the controversial oil-extraction method of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking.

Two Assembly bills, AB 972 and AB 591, died in the Senate Appropriations Committee last week after intense opposition by the energy industry, according to K. Eric Adair, a legal expert on environmental issues. Thursday was the last day for consideration of legislation in the current session, which ends August 31.

AB 972 would have imposed a moratorium on all fracking until the state devised regulations to govern its use. AB 591 would require oil drillers to disclose certain fracking activities, including the content of fracking fluids being injected into the ground.

AB 972 was the bigger longshot of the two. Although the Department of Conservation  and its Division of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources are working on a regulatory scheme for future consideration, the bill was opposed by the governor’s office. The department conducted a statewide “listening tour” a few months ago to gauge public sentiment on the issue.

While energy companies claim that legislation like AB 591 endangers their trade secret formulas for fracking concoctions, oil companies have cooperated in some states to make some of that information available on a limited basis.

Fracking requires the use of powerful pumps to force a pressurized mix of water and chemicals deep into layers of shale, causing fractures and allowing the extraction of otherwise unavailable natural gas or oil. Although the chemical mix is about 99% water, the remaining 1% includes methanol, hydrofluoric acid, sulfuric acid and formaldehyde.

Critics say fracking has been linked to groundwater contamination, air pollution, releases of methane gas, micro-earthquakes and sink holes.

Fracking is used across the country and has become controversial in natural gas-producing regions in Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York. Halliburton Co.. whose former CEO was ex-Vice President Dick Cheney, helped convince Congress to exempt fracking from regulation under the Clean Drinking Water Act in 2005.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

California Legislators Shelve Dozens of Bills (by Patrick McGreevy and Michael J. Mishak, Los Angeles Times)

California Fracking Legislation Stalls in Senate Appropriations Committee (by K. Eric Adair, JD Supra)

State Regulators “Listening” while Energy Companies Are Fracking (by Ken Broder, AllGov)

Pennsylvania Republicans Protect Suburbs from Fracking, but Give Go-Ahead in Rural Counties (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)

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