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California Fracking Bill Hits Legislative Wall

California's proposed law (AB 591) dealing with hydraulic fracturing (fracking) was close to being held over as a two-year bill late Wednesday, according to the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA). With less than two weeks left in this year's state legislative session, AB 591 has not moved as deadlines have passed in the state Senate Appropriations Committee.

While it is still possible something could be worked out in the next few days, that is not likely, WSPA spokesperson Tupper Hull told NGI's Shale Daily late Wednesday. Other observers in Sacramento earlier had interpreted the missed deadlines to mean AB 591's proposed mandate of chemical disclosures on fracking is doomed for this year.

"It is now likely, and appears that AB 591 is not going to be adopted during the current session," Hull said. "I think the expectation is that there are some issues relating to trade secret protections that could not be worked out." Hull said the thinking among the parties now is that talks can be resumed in the new legislative session in January, "starting where they left off and that the author can get a bill early next year. There are some possibilities still for this year -- anything can happen -- but it isn't likely."

As far as the missed deadline for getting out of committee and onto the Senate floor, Hull said rules have been changed in the past when the legislature wants to get something done, so that was not what stopped things. Ultimately, the industry and the bill's author, Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, and environmental groups have not been able to reach an agreement, he said.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the country Louisiana is working on a frack fluid disclosure rule at the regulatory level while Arkansas has one and a rule in Texas drafted in response to legislative mandate is out for public comment (see Shale Daily, Sept. 1).

WSPA and other industry backers take the position that fracking has been used for more than 60 years throughout the industry, including California.

Contending that currently information on the fracking process is "badly lacking," Wieckowski, has sought to put more pressure on the state and regional producers' associations, which have continued to oppose to the measure without future amendments. The bill had been expected to be voted on by the Senate Appropriations Committee last Friday, according to Wieckowski's Sacramento-based spokesperson.

"We are still hoping to get it through the legislature before the session ends Sept. 9," he said.

The bill has received limited support in the Assembly and from several environmental groups: the Environmental Working Group, California League of Conversation Voters, Clean Water Action, Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Defense Fund.

AB 591, according to the supporters, would ensure that the state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources gathers information on the chemicals used, along with the volume and source of water, in the fracking process.

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