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Fracking Bills Get Cold Shoulder in California

All but one of the proposals to address hydraulic fracturing (fracking), including all of those seeking moratoriums on the well stimulation practice, have bitten the dust in the California legislature. The lone bill standing (SB 4) is still awaiting committee referral in the lower house Assembly (see Shale Daily, June 3).

The last of the Assembly fracking bills (AB 7) was rejected in committee Wednesday to the disappointment of its author, who had taken several amendments requested by the Natural Resources Committee on six points that had been raised. AB 7 managed three votes, but it needed at least five to pass out of committee.

"I have worked for two-and-a-half years with environmentalists, the industry, legislators, staff and the state Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) to provide more public disclosure on hydraulic fracturing in California because I believe the public has the right to know about the process," said Assembly member Rob Wieckowski.

The lawmaker acknowledged that after seeing other fracking bills shot down on the Assembly floor and his proposal redirected to the Natural Resources Committee, he agreed to amend AB 7, but once it went to committee that wasn't enough. "Everyone wanted another bite at the apple," he said.

As it stands, an aide to Wieckowski in Sacramento told NGI that many of the lawmaker's provisions in AB 7 are included in SB 4, the legislation authored by Sen. Fran Pavley, a Southern California Democrat, who characterized her bill as "protecting California against huge potential costs" by regulating fracking, something that DOGGR began articulating last year (see Shale Daily, Dec. 21, 2012).

Wieckowski's spokesperson and a spokesperson with the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) told NGI that if a fracking bill does emerge from the state legislature before it adjourns the end of August, it will most likely be some form of SB 4, which WSPA still does not support but would like to.

"We have not formally supported SB 4 but would like to be in a position to do that," said WSPA spokesperson Tupper Hull, agreeing that SB 4 is the only bill still alive addressing hydraulic fracturing.

Hull said WSPA hopes to work with Pavley to develop "a comprehensive package of regulations that will go significantly farther than the draft DOGGR regulations [see Shale Daily, Feb. 13] yet still allow for continued petroleum energy production. Time will tell if that is a realistic expectation."

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