California Democrats try to stop fracking in the state

Michael Bastasch | Contributor

Democrats in the California state assembly have introduced measures to impose a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, until state regulators evaluate the public health and environmental concerns.

Following in the steps of New York and New Jersey, three measures were introduced in the California legislature this week to ban fracking and wait for state regulators determine if the practice is safe and what regulations would be needed to move forward.

“Fracking operations have skyrocketed in recent years throughout the country and in California as new technologies have enabled the extraction of oil and natural gas deposits from previously unreachable geological formations,” said Democratic Assemblyman Richard Bloom, whose bill would ban fracking until regulations are implemented. “However, fracking uses and produces highly toxic chemicals that pose serious threats to public health and the environment.”

Los Angeles-area assembly members also introduced legislation to ban fracking and have state regulators to determine by 2019 whether or not fracking is safe enough to be permitted.

In a press conference earlier this month, California Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, expressed enthusiasm over fracking in the state and dismissed any notion of jumping on “ideological bandwagons” when considering the issue.

“We have 30 million vehicles in California,” Brown said. “That’s a lot of oil. So I think we have room to supply our need even as we reduce oil consumption. We should be reducing it much faster than we are, and hopefully we can get some national policies to do that, but that still doesn’t mean that in the meantime there isn’t oil under the ground in California that can’t be made very useful.”

“Whether it’s fracking, or whether it’s a low-carbon fuel standard, or anything else, we keep our eyes open and we’re not jumping on any ideological bandwagons,” Brown added.

“California’s energy sector offers a great opportunity for jobs growth and tax revenue,” James Hamilton, economics professor at the University of California, San Diego told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The fracking boom has made a major contribution to the economy in North Dakota and Texas, and could help California too if we gave it a chance.”

Bloomberg reports that the Monterey Shale formation is estimated to have 15.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil. A study from the University of Southern California found that developing those resources could generate 2.8 million jobs and $24.6 billion in government revenues by 2020.

Fracking involves injecting fluids into cracks in rock formations to widen them and allow more oil and gas to escape, increasing the amounts that can be recovered.

However, environmentalists have expressed concerns that fracking will harm water and air quality within the state.

“Fracking is simply not worth the high costs to California’s environment, public health and agricultural industry,” writes Adam Scow, the California campaigns director for Food and Water Watch. “Rather than roll over for the oil and gas industry, Gov. Jerry Brown should focus on ensuring that California stays a global leader in the burgeoning clean energy economy.”

Update: “The legislature is taking an appropriately assertive stand on fracking with the moratorium. It’s time to stop expanding a dangerous practice,” said Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California, in an emailed statement. “With the recent attention to the Monterey Shale formation, parts of California already impaired by air and groundwater pollution are at risk of becoming a pincushion as Big Oil tries to expand fracking. A moratorium is the only way we can ensure that the public is adequately protected from dirty, dangerous fracking practices.”

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