Environmentalists balk at Calif. anti-fracking bill

Michael Bastasch | Contributor

The Sierra Club and other environmental groups are bashing an attempt by California Democrats to impose more regulations on hydraulic fracturing, arguing the proposed legislation does not go far enough.

While most environmental groups who have weighed in on the issue support legislation introduced by Democratic state Sen. Fran Pavley, the Sierra Club is among the liberal groups that have testified against it.

Pavely’s bill would require oil companies to disclose information on chemicals used in the fracking process as well as the locations and procedures involved in the process. among other things. The bill also requires state regulators to conduct a scientific study into the impacts of fracking.

However, the Sierra Club argued that the bill did not go far enough and that the public needed more information to protect air and water quality from contamination. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reports that the liberal activist groups Credo and MoveOn denounced the bill as “weak” and call for a total ban on fracking.

California Democrats originally called for a moratorium on fracking in the state, but decided against it based on industry push back.

“I want to make sure we have a bill requiring disclosure that can pass the Legislature and get a signature,” Pavley said.

The LA Times reported that Sierra Club’s California Director Kathryn Phillips argued that, “It’s not enough, she said, to make public a list of the names and quantities of chemicals injected in the ground. The public also needs to know the relative concentrations of those chemicals, which is not required by the current version of the Pavley bill.”

“My members need to have access to that information,” Phillips said.

Fracking has become a national cause for environmentalists who want to see more regulations and even bans on the drilling technique over concerns it contaminates groundwater and harms air quality.

California lawmakers have recently called for a federal investigation into offshore fracking as well as more stringent federal regulations on fracking off the coast.

“Hydraulic fracturing poses great potential dangers to our sea life and all California residents,” said Democratic Assemblyman Das Williams. “This controversial well-stimulation technique needs greater scrutiny, particularly when it potentially jeopardizes our coastal way of life.”

However, the oil and gas industry has called for a balanced approach to regulating fracking in the state. The industry says this will allow Californians to reap the economic benefits of expanded oil drilling all while protecting the environment.

“California cannot afford to ignore these potential benefits and the opportunity to get our economic recovery on track,” said Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western State Petroleum Association.

According to the Western State Petroleum Association, expanded fracking operations in California could create up to 2.8 million jobs and increase state and local government revenues by up to $24.6 billion.

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