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Lawmakers Make Last Ditch Effort to Halt California Fracking

Joining a national opposition group and an anti-hydraulic fracturing (fracking) academic, nine state legislators made a last ditch stand Tuesday, writing Gov. Jerry Brown, urging him to impose a moratorium on the use of fracking.

California state Assembly member Marc Levine said he has joined a national effort being spearheaded by CREDO, a San Francisco-based activist group that has been working for months on a campaign to force Brown into declaring a moratorium on fracking. The governor continues to give no indication he will change course.

The latest appeal to Brown comes from Levine and five other assembly members, along with three state senators. Levine noted that the timing of delivering the letter to the governor on Tuesday coincides with the final week of the state collecting public comments on its new proposed fracking rules outlined by a state law passed last year (SB 4) (see Shale Daily, Sept. 23, 2013).

Officials at the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) told NGI's Shale Daily there is no widespread grassroots effort to place a moratorium on fracking, and that the passage of SB 4 has resulted in some of the toughest drilling standards in the nation. They contend the public policy debate was settled already.

But Levine and his fellow lawmakers are joining CREDO in attempting to get Brown to halt the implementation of SB 4 by the state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) with the California Department of Conservation. They want this effort halted until "health and environmental concerns" are addressed even though some of the lawmakers, such as Levine, voted for SB 4 last year.

"Until we fully understand the negative effects of fracking, a moratorium is essential to protect our environment, along with public health and safety," said Levine, who acknowledged that he and other lawmakers supporting the moratorium have no fracking ongoing in their districts.

The opponents scheduled a conference call with news media Tuesday, during which they brought out a college professor who has been highly critical of fracking, Robert Howarth, a professor of ecology and environmental biology at Cornell University in western New York.

During the conference call, Howarth reiterated some of his criticisms of fracking that emerged three years ago, although some of his conclusions, such as excessive methane leaks from the drilling process, were subsequently disputed by academic colleagues of his at Cornell (see Shale Daily, Dec. 1, 2011).

"There is no growing movement for a moratorium in California," said Tupper Hull, a WSPA spokesperson. "California has settled this issue conclusively with the adoption of SB 4 establishing the strictest regulations of hydraulic fracturing in the country.”

The California land rig count peaked at 40 several times in 2013, but has fallen back more recently. According to Baker Hughes data, there were 40 drilling rigs working the state as recently as Nov. 15, 2013, but that number was down to 32 for the week ended January 3, 2014.

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