California Fracking Legislation Creates Odd Allies

Sacramento reporter John Myers suggests that if the oil industry and the Sierra Club both oppose a fracking bill - one for going too far; the other for not going far enough - then state Senator Fran Pavley's bill, "must be doing something right".

There are two specific issues in SB 4: Oil and gas: well stimulation that have these two parties who usually take opposing sides on energy and environmental legislation, joining forces: acidizing and disclosure clauses.

Acidizing, a form of 'oil well stimulation' "includes the uses of acid compounds to bring the oil to the surface" that unlike fracking, doesn't involve horizontal drilling. [See David R. Baker's August 25 article in the San Francisco Chronicle that contrasts acidizing with fracking and shows why the former may be more applicable to California's vast Monterey Shale that is said to hold the largest shale oil deposits in the U.S.].

When SB 4 passed the Senate on May 29, it covered only fracking. The subject title read, "Oil and gas: hydraulic fracturing". In the Assembly, it was amended to read, "Oil and gas - well stimulation" to the dismay of Paul Diero, a lobbyist for the Western States Petroleum Association, who appears in the accompanying 2:16 broadcast. 

While the bill's author, Fran Pavley, received Sierra Club Calif's highest award in 2009 and is widely known for authoring California's landmark Light Duty Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emissions Standards bill in 2004, Sierra Club California sees the lack of sufficient "public disclosure of the chemicals used in the fracking process" as sufficient reason to oppose the bill.

Kathryn Phillips [who also appears in the accompanying video], the organization's California director, says the public needs to know not just the chemicals involved but also the concentration of those chemicals being used -- information that the oil industry considers to be trade secrets.

However, Myers notes that the "Sierra Club finds itself virtually alone among politically active environmental groups; several other heavy hitters all support SB 4 as better than no legislation at all." [Scroll down the May 28 analysis to see a list of supporters and opponents]. While not disclosing the proprietary fracking mixtures to the public, the bill "mandates that oil companies disclose the precise mixture of fracking chemicals to state and local officials in the event of an emergency", according to Myers.

If the bill fails, there will be no legislative regulations overseeing the fracking and acidizing processes. However, as Scott Detrow writes in KQED News Fix on August 14, "The idea that fracking and acidizing are completely unregulated in California is popular but false. The Department of Conservation’s oil and gas division treats them as one aspect of the broader drilling process, which it permits and regulates." In addition, as Detrow wrote on March 22, the state has already prepared new fracking regulation that is winding its way through the public process for approval.

Full Story: Fracking fight fractures some Capitol alliances

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