California Lawmakers Introduce New Fracking Bill

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On February 20, 2014, California lawmakers Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) and Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) introduced Senate Bill (SB) 1132, a new bill that would halt fracturing and other oil and extraction practices in the state until a comprehensive review of their impact is complete. The introduction of SB 1132 reignites a legislative debate that hydraulic fracturing opponents lost last year. SB 1132 would expand the scope of SB 4, which was signed into law in 2013, to include health risks posed by chemicals used in other forms of well stimulation as well as the safety of industry workers and the state's water supply.

The bill, introduced last Thursday, would halt all types of fracturing both on- and off-shore California until the completion of a multiagency review of the economic, environmental and public health impacts. SB 1132 would not only halt the use of high-pressure injection of water and fracturing fluids into oil and gas reservoirs, the process most often thought of as “fracking” by the  public, but would also prevent the use of acids to enhance permeability in “pay zones” to increase the flow of oil and  gas into wells until the report is finished. The latter process has been successfully used to increase oil and gas production in California for decades.

The new bill would also expand the scope and range information that exploration and production companies would be required to disclose over and above that required by SB 4, the hydraulic fracturing legislation signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2013.

Environmentalists and the bill’s proponents are attempting to leverage California’s severe water shortage to limit or prohibit what the bill’s sponsor’s claim is a “water-intensive practice.” Fracking in the state used about 300 acre-feet of water last year, or as much as 300 households, according to state records, a volume far less than used in the Marcellus, Eagle Ford or Bakken shale reservoirs.

Fracking has been implemented in numerous Monterey Shale Basins in California counties for decades. Exploration and production companies have also used the acidization process in offshore wells along California’s coast to increase the recovery of oil and gas for many years without incident.