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California Legislature Moves One Fracking Bill; Another Idle

While other proposals regarding hydraulic fracturing (fracking) stayed immobile, the California Senate Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday moved on a strictly partisan vote of 5-3 a proposed bill (SB 1054) that would require exploration and production (E&P) companies to notify surrounding property owners of their plans to employ fracking ahead of starting work. The industry is opposed to pre-notification on proprietary grounds.

State Sen. Fran Pavley, a long-time Democrat lawmaker from Southern California, is sponsoring the legislation as a "necessary first step" as the California legislators attempt to get their arms around fracking, which has been used in the state for a long time to tap oil deposits but for which there are no specific laws other than more general regulations for traditional oil and gas drilling (see Shale Daily, March 30).

Pavley's bill would require companies to notify neighboring property owners 30 days before beginning to use hydraulic fracturing. It is "just like you would be expecting your neighbor to put up a sign if they were adding a second story to their house," she said.

Pavley specifically emphasized that her bill is not designed to "stop fracking" but seeks to provide "a good government kind of approach."

In earlier news reports on the legislation, a Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) spokesperson said the oil industry group opposes the measure but supports disclosure, transparency and the fracking technology itself. "Pre-notification is a step too far," the spokesperson told the Los Angeles Times.

The issue of chemical disclosure on fracking is also being addressed separately, and the current bill (AB 591), a rehash of a bill that failed to pass last year, is sitting in the Senate Rules Committee, a spokesperson for its sponsor told NGI Wednesday.

WSPA's Sacramento-based spokesperson Tupper Hull told NGI Wednesday the industry group still is hopeful AB 591 will be approved this legislative session and signed by the governor "very soon."

"SB 1054 is another matter entirely," Hull said. "We are opposed to [it] because we believe it is unnecessary since AB 591 deals with the disclosure issue. It also alters the very well established and delicate relationships between land owners and mineral rights owners that have evolved over a century and have served all parties well."

AB 591 has passed the state lower house Assembly and is waiting to be revived in the Senate. The California Independent Producers Association (CIPA) is again supporting the measure because it has been amended to accommodate industry concerns.

CIPA is the industry group that is also involved in establishing a tour for Gov. Jerry Brown of oilfields in Kern County in the south end of the oil-rich San Joaquin Valley, something Brown alluded to when he attended an energy conference last month. The producers group met with the governor in March and during that briefing he asked for a tour. CIPA officials said they think Brown will keep an "open mind" on the issue.

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