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California Lawmakers Reject Proposed Fracking Moratorium

The California state Senate on Thursday rejected a bill (SB 1132) seeking to establish a moratorium on the use of hydraulic fracturing (fracking), for which the state is in the process of finalizing new rules from a bill (SB 4) passed last year.

The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), which represents many of the large oil/natural gas exploration/production companies in the state, urged stakeholders to put the moratorium issue aside and work to finish implementing SB 4 by the end of this year, but environmental groups accused state lawmakers of ignoring polls they say show two-thirds of the state's voters favor a moratorium.

On a third reading, SB 1132 was refused passage in a 16-16 vote of the 40-member state senate. Authored by Los Angeles-based state Sen. Holly Mitchell, the measure sought to halt fracking, acidizing and "other controversial forms" of oil/gas development.

"Today’s defeat of legislation that would have imposed a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing and other well stimulation technologies, clears a path for a concerted and collaborative effort to fully implement new statewide regulations embodied in SB 4," said a WSPA spokesperson.

As part of the SB 4 implementation, which began late last year, WSPA said it has been working with the state Water Resources Control Board and regional water boards to develop groundwater monitoring criteria and planning required under SB 4. WSPA contends that the new requirements will provide data it needs "to demonstrate hydraulic fracturing and other well stimulation technologies are not adversely impacting California’s precious water supplies."

Representatives of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Sierra Club, however, lamented the moratorium's defeat, contending that “new polling released last week revealed more than two-thirds of Californians support a moratorium.

"The poll revealed that this sentiment held true across party lines, with the majority of Democrats (78%), Independents (74%) and Republicans (51%) all backing a timeout on fracking."

Earlier this year, California Gov. Jerry Brown was shouted down by anti-fracking activists in Los Angeles at a state Democratic Party meeting in which a majority of the attendees forced a call for a ban on the drilling practice as part of the official platform this election year (see Shale Daily, March 12).

"Californians have made it clear they do not want to rush ahead recklessly on fracking," said Damon Nagami, an NRDC senior attorney. The state Senate rejection comes within days of the federal estimates for recoverable oil from California's Monterey Shale being slashed by about 96% (see Shale Daily, May 28).

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