Today, California’s Senate Appropriations Committee conducted a hearing on AB 972, a bill that would impose a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” until new regulations are adopted that would govern the practice. For more information about AB 972, see our prior posts here and here.
Noting that the bill was a candidate for the committee’s suspense file due to its potentially significant financial impact, the committee chair first invited Assemblymember Betsy Butler to address the committee, following by two speakers on either side of the bill. Their comments are summarized below.
Assemblymember Butler explained that AB 972 seeks to preserve the health and safety of the environment until the Department of Conservation (DOC) and its Division of Oil, Gas & Geothermal Resources (DOG) act on a thoughtful regulatory practice governing fracking. She found perplexing the projected $9 million in delayed revenues if the bill becomes law, given her contention that the DOG does not know where fracking is happening. She expressed appreciation that DOG is in the process of developing regulations and requested an aye vote on her bill pending adoption of those regulations.
The next speaker was a representative of Food & Water Watch. He encouraged the committee to review the recent Pacific Institute report, “Hydraulic Fracturing and Water Resources: Separating the Frack from the Fiction” (pdf). His chief concerns about fracking included spills, leaks and water consumption. Arguing that DOG did not even know fracking was going on previously, he concluded with a request that fracking be delayed pending regulation.
The final speaker in support of AB 972 represented the California League of Conservation Voters, who suggested that it is very rare that activity like fracking would be allowed without regulation. He asked that the practice be stopped until regulations are adopted, contending that any concern about the financial impacts of a moratorium should not be considered.
The first speaker in opposition to the bill was a representative of the California Independent Producers Association (CIPA). Explaining that the bill is on CIPA’s “hot list,” he said that the administration is already working at “lightning speed” to draft regulations. There is insufficient science to support a fracking ban and, if passed, opponents of fracking would seek to delay the adoption of regulations, thereby effectively extending the moratorium.
Also speaking in opposition to a moratorium was a representative of the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA). He argued that AB 972 presents an even more extreme position than SB 1054, a bill that was rejected in committee in May 2012. Among other things, SB 1054 would have required pre-notification of fracking activities to neighboring property owners and occupants. He also predicted a huge economic impact from a moratorium under AB 972.
At the conclusion of the presentations, Senator Ted Lieu asked Assemblymember Butler how long fracking has been practiced in California. She said that it has been going on for some 40-50 years but suggested that we are now seeing a new kind of fracking (presumably a reference to horizontal drilling). In response to another question from Senator Lieu, Assemblymember Butler acknowledged that nothing bad has happened yet in California from fracking but asserted that bad things have happened elsewhere.
As expected, the bill was placed on the suspense file without a vote and will be taken up again by the committee on Thursday, August 16. That same day, a further hearing is scheduled on AB 591, a bill that would require disclosure of fracking operations and the chemicals used therein.
Tagged → AB 591, AB 972, Betsy Butler, California League of Conservation Voters, CIPA, Department of Conservation, Division of Oil and Gas, Food & Water Watch, Fracking, Hydraulic fracturing, SB 1054, WSPA