As the only live fracking bill sets up for a floor vote late today or tomorrow in the state assembly, controversy about the energy lobby, environmental review exemptions and claims of untruths abound.
SB 4, penned by state senator Fran Pavley (D – Agoura Hills) will either pass or die this week. And according to a Pavley staff member in Ventura County “it’s a moving target” because while it has already been amended three times, nothing is set in stone until the vote. Trying to track the amendments on this bill is like trying to thread Swiss cheese.
Some organizations are urging voters to urge their representatives to vote no. Credo is organizing a call in because, Credo says, one of the amendment exempts fracking from CEQA environmental review. But according to a group of environmental groups, that is just what the energy lobby wants you to think. Click here for an assembly analysis of SB4 Page 9 seems to address this issue.
Environmental groups and oil industry trade groups are actively lobbying.
[Note: CEQA = California Environmental Quality Act / DOGGR = Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources – the state’s regulatory body for oil and gas production]
“Oil lobbyists with the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) – representing 80 percent of the oil and natural gas drillers in California – are walking the halls of the legislature, telling lawmakers [SB 4] would require environmental impact reports under CEQA for each of California’s approximately 50,000 existing oil and gas wells. This is simply not true,” said a joint press release (embedded below) from the Environmental Working Group, the National Resource Defense Council, Clean Water Action, and California League of Conservation Voters. “They are using this false claim to request that fracking and acidizing of these wells be exempt from CEQA entirely – not just for ongoing fracking but for any future fracking project at the same well, with new chemicals, new processes or whatever the industry chooses – forever.”
“The environmental groups claiming WSPA is attempting to exempt hydraulic fracturing from CEQA review are misstating the facts,” said WSPA president Catherine Reheis-Boyd via email to VCInFocus. “Hydraulic fracturing and other well stimulation processes and technologies have not been subject to CEQA and its guiding statute. Some of the organizations that are on record opposing hydraulic fracturing have attempted to expand CEQA application to include those technologies, something WSPA opposes.”
“We actually dispute WSPA’s claim that CEQA doesn’t apply now,” said Andrew Grinberg, Oil and Gas Program coordinator with Clean Water Action, in an email to VCInFocus. “The bill (SB 4) clarifies that it does apply but does not represent an expansion. Enforcement of CEQA by DOGGR has been inadequate which is one of the motivations for the bill.” And responding to WSPA’s opposition of CEQA being applied to fracking and other well stimulation processes Grinberg said, “WSPA would oppose CEQA enforcement because they would prefer the status quo of limited oversight and public participation.”
If passed, the bill would take affect sometime in 2014 and would require various permits for fracking and acidization, notification and other regulatory measures aimed at protecting the public and environment from any potential ill effects. Opposing groups like the California Chamber of Commerce, say it's a job killer, and other point to DOGGR and it's fracking regs which are in the process of being written. Still no word on when DOGGR's formal version of its proposed fracking regulations will be completed and released.
Below is the recent joint press release: