California Fracking Legislation

2014 Legislative Session

Senate Bill 1132

Senators Holly Mitchell and Mark Leno introduced SB 1132 on February 20, 2014.  SB 1132 aimed to expand the scope of the study required by SB 4 to include more potential impacts on public health and the environment. It requires a moratorium on fracking and well stimulation until the study affirms that fracking is not harmful to California’s health, environment, and economic stability.  Elements of the study include: identifying offshore oil and gas exploration, evaluating the impacts to ground and surface water, evaluating the risks of flowback fluids, considering how emissions will impact AB 32, and looking at the effects on low income communities. The bill failed in the Senate in May, 2014.

Senator Holly J. Mitchell, a leading proponent of California fracking legislation

Senator Holly Mitchell introduces SB 1132 as part of her legislative agenda for CA’s 26th Senate District during a Community Town Hall meeting on March 1, 2014 (Source: Senator Holly J. Mitchell)

2013 Legislative Session

During the 2013 session, California fracking legislation was a hotly debated issue with vocal advocates on both sides.  Thirteen different legislative bills were introduced with various policy proposals to study, regulate, or place a moratorium on fracking in California. Ultimately, only one of these bills  was signed into law: SB 4.

Senate Bill 4

On September 20, 2013, Governor Brown signed SB 4, a bill sponsored by Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) to establish a regulatory structure for unconventional well stimulation techniques, including fracking and acidization. The law, the largest piece of California fracking legislation passed to date, requires groundwater and air quality monitoring as well as public disclosure of all chemicals used. It also directs the State to complete an independent scientific study to evaluate potential risks including, groundwater and surface water contamination, greenhouse gas emissions, local air pollution, seismic impacts, and effects on wildlife, native plants and habitat. The study must be completed by January 2015.  Read more about the study and opportunities for public input.

Fran Pavley, a leading proponent of California Fracking Legislation and author of SB-4

State Senator Fran Pavley holds an informational hearing on acidization on June 18, 2013. (Source: California Assembly)

While regulations to implement the law took effect in 2014, SB 4 directs the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) to consult with other state agencies by January 1, 2015 to develop more detailed regulations and clearly delineate responsibilities for monitoring and reporting in places where well stimulation may occur. The regulations will begin, in cooperation with the State Water Board, on July 1, 2015.

Supporters of the bill emphasize the unprecedented regulatory oversight of unconventional well stimulation techniques. Some critics argue the regulations go further than necessary, while other argue that the law does not go far enough because it does not bar fracking operations before the scientific study and a separate statewide environmental impact report have been completed and final regulations are in place. SB 4 remains the primary piece of California fracking legislation to be passed and is in the process of being implemented.

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