Seeking a complete ban on fracking, more than 50 people showed up outside of state Sen. Fran Pavley’s office in Calabasas on Monday.
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The afternoon protest was to make sure lawmakers didn’t give a “green light” to fracking with Senate Bill 4, which demonstrators felt wasn’t strong enough.
State Sen. Steve Knight, R-Antelope Valley, said Senate Republicans were voting no on the bill because the bill would discourage fracking in California, which only increases our energy dependence.
“It’s a weak bill, and in this case, I think a weak bill is not better than none at all,” said Lauren Steiner, who organized the demonstration and two online petitions.
There should be a complete ban on fracking, Steiner said, adding that it’s unsafe with any amount of regulation.
“There’s a reason 58 percent of Californians polled want a moratorium on fracking,” Steiner said, citing a recent poll of 1,500 residents conducted by USC.
Two petitions on moveon.org and credoaction.com collected more than 19,000 signatures as of Monday afternoon.
Steiner, 55, of Benedict Canyon, described herself as a “full-time activist.” A former TV executive who advised Gov. Jerry Brown on media buys during his failed 1992 presidential run, she said she’s been disappointed with Democratic leadership on the fracking issue.
“It’s being used as political a cover,” Steiner said. “It green-lights fracking to be ramped up in a major way.”
Objections to the bill have bipartisan support, but for completely different reasons.
Knight, who voted no on the bill Monday, during the Senate’s first day back in session, said Californians can’t afford a regulatory bill that would drive energy interests out of state.
“There’s people that think this is the worst thing in the world but it’s also spurring the development of oil and gas in this state,” Knight said. “If we’re going to have energy independence, this is going to be one of the ways we’re going to be moving that way.”
Knight alluded to a regulatory bill in New York that hurt fracking interests, and talked about the hidden costs to well operators in Los Angeles and Kern counties.
“I agree we want safe exploration,” Knight said. “We want to do this safely, but you can’t take every risk out of everything — that’s not how America was built.”
For her part, Pavley, who authored the bill, said in a released statement in March after her bill was amended:
“The rules within SB 4 are merely the kind of common-sense protections needed for any potentially hazardous industrial activity, let alone one that is rapidly expanding in our state,” she said. “While the industry correctly notes that fracking has been going on in California for 60 years, many of the techniques and chemicals are new, as is the immense scale of many of these operations.”
She could not be reached for comment Monday regarding the demonstration, however, her office released this statement:
“It is encouraging to see citizens engaged in state government, particularly on such an important issue. I share the goal of protecting public health and safety and the environment, and as a legislator I believe my best chance at achieving this goal is through comprehensive regulations. Oil companies are already fracking and acidizing wells in California, and unless we put strict rules in place, they will continue to do so without proper oversight and accountability.”
The bill is currently in the appropriations committee, and has not yet seen the Assembly floor.
Here is a summary of the SB 4, according to a statement from Pavley’s office:
“Senate Bill 4 is motivated by the public’s right to know about fracking. It requires companies to obtain a state-issued permit to frack, and to notify neighboring property owners 30 days ahead of time. It also says they must disclose to the state all of the chemicals they use to frack in a particular location. The bill allows industry to claim trade secret protection for chemicals under specific circumstances. Here are a few key amendments (added in March):
Authorization. Drillers must obtain a permit for fracking a well. The permit application will include information about the planned fracking job including the chemicals and amount of water to be used.
Notice. Along with the right to be notified 30 days in advance, property owners can have regional water boards test well and surface water before and after fracking.
Public safety. The state must complete an independent scientific study on fracking by January 1, 2015. This report must include assessments of public and environmental health and safety. No fracking permits could be approved after this date if the scientific study is not completed.
Transparency. Requires the state to develop its own web-site for fracking fluid reporting by January 1, 2016. Until then, the Fracfocus.org web-site could be used, as specified in DOGGR’s draft regulations.
Monitoring. The existing industry production fee on drilling operations would be modified to specifically include costs associated with fracking, including air and water quality monitoring, as well as the scientific study. Regulators would be required to perform spot checks to ensure that the fracking information provided by companies is accurate. By January 1, 2015, the administration would also be required to issue its final regulations, and to enter into formal agreements with water boards and other regulators in order to specify responsibilities around air and water monitoring.
- The revised bill retains reporting requirements to ensure the state gathers sufficient information in order to understand the scope and extent of fracking in California, including the amount of water used and waste disposal methods. It also keeps provisions allowing for health professionals and others to obtain trade secret information if necessary.
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Source: Santa Clarita News