The California State Senate voted 29-8 Wednesday to protect the public and the environment from the risks of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), acidizing and other unregulated oilfield practices by sending Senate Bill 4 (Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills) to Governor Jerry Brown for signature.
Unlike at least 14 petroleum producing states, including Texas and Wyoming, California does not currently regulate fracking, which is the injection of water, sand and chemicals underground to crack rock formations and free up oil and gas. The state also lacks regulations for acidizing, which is the use of hydrofluoric acid and other corrosive acids to dissolve shale rock.
SB 4 would require permits for fracking, acidizing and other oil well stimulation practices. It would require notification of neighbors, public disclosure of all chemicals used, groundwater and air quality monitoring and an independent scientific study.
The study would evaluate potential risks such as groundwater and surface water contamination, greenhouse gas emissions, local air pollution, seismic impacts, and effects on wildlife, native plants and habitat.
“We really don’t want to continue down the road where we have to tell the public we don’t know,” Pavley said Wednesday on the Senate Floor. “We don’t know where we are fracking wells. We don’t know what chemicals are being used. We don’t know how these fluids are being stored. We just don’t know.”
SB 4 ensures the public will know, she said.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Assembly voted 54-19 to approve the bill, paving the way for the final Senate vote.
“SB 4 allows California to move forward and take advantage of a tremendous economic and job growth opportunity while at the same time protecting our water, public health, and environment” said Assemblymember Adam Gray (D-Merced), the bill’s principal co-author. “Working with Senator Pavley to achieve a bipartisan solution that received two-thirds support from both houses of the Legislature on an issue such as fracking speaks to what can be accomplished when people truly work together.”
Environmental activists are against the bill and want a halt to the oil drilling practice altogether.
"We don't need need any more studies to show us fracking is harmful," activist Lauren Stein said at a rally over the summer. " ... telling someone when you are going to frack, where you are going to frack and what chemicals you are going to use is like a murderer telling you I am going to shoot you at your front porch tomorrow at noon using an AK 47. At the end of the day, you're still dead."