Bad Day in Sacramento for GMO Labeling and Fracking Moratorium

Monday, June 02, 2014

Polls show that Californians don’t like fracking or unlabelled GMOs, but they are going to be stuck with both for awhile after the state Senate rejected bills last week that would have been tough on them.

Senate Bill 1132, which would have imposed a moratorium on the controversial oil and gas drilling technique until it was proven safe, fell three votes short of passage on Wednesday after fierce opposition from the energy industry. It was a bipartisan defeat. Twelve Republicans were helped by four Democrats who voted “No” and six who didn’t vote. A second attempt also failed.

In defense of those Democrats who didn’t vote, three of them are suspended from the 40-member Senate for various transgressions, alleged and otherwise.

Opponents of the bill cited financial harm to communities where fracking has been used to tap oil and gas deposits beyond the reach of conventional drilling. Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, uses enormous amounts of pressurized water, toxic chemicals and other materials to break up rock formations.

They also argued that a moratorium was unnecessary because California passed Senate Bill 4 last September to regulate fracking. That legislation is the state’s first stab at giving government some oversight and control of a process that has been utilized for decades on a limited basis, but has been reinvigorated nationally by new science and technology.

The invocation of Senate Bill 4 by supporters of fracking grates on a lot of critics, who considered it too watered-down by last-minute amendments to be effective. They would have preferred a moratorium but were willing to settle for rules that would force the energy industry to identify where they are fracking, give notice where they intend to frack and disclose what toxic chemicals they are pumping into the ground with millions of gallons of pressurized water.

Instead, they got a law that pretty much allows business as usual until an environmental report is put together—in July 2015.

Fracking has been linked to groundwater contamination, air pollution, releases of methane gas, micro-earthquakes and sinkholes.  

Americans are even more wary of genetically-modified organisms than they are of fracking. A New York Times poll last July found that three-quarters of respondents were concerned about the safety of eating GMO products and 93% said they wanted them labeled.  

Polling in California just weeks before the November 2012 election showed GMO labeling was favored 66.9% to 22.3%, but a vigorous lobbying campaign led by biotech giant Monsanto helped convince voters to reject Proposition 37 by a 51.4%-48.6% margin.

A similar GMO labeling bill, SB 1381, died last week. Like the fracking bill, it received support from a majority of those voting, but fell a couple votes short of attaining the 21 “ayes” needed for passage.

Both bills faced a Friday deadline to clear the house where they originated.

–Ken Broder     


To Learn More:

Oil Lobby Overpowers Voters to Kill Statewide Fracking Ban in California (by Emily Atkin, ThinkProgress)

California Senate Rejects Bill to Halt Fracking (by Rory Carroll, Reuters)

Fracking Moratorium Dies in California Senate (by Laurel Rosenhall, Sacramento Bee)

Calif. Senate Vote Falls Short for Moratorium on Oil Fracking (by Patrick McGreevy, Los Angeles Times)

California Lawmakers Reject Bill Requiring Labeling on GMO Foods (by Jennifer Chaussee, Reuters)

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