Fracking regulation could be on the horizon after state Sen. Fran Pavley's bill passed an important panel.
The bill authored by Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, the law calls for an in-depth look into the controversial practice that has grown in popularity in recent years, and passed with a 6-2 vote.
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The Senate Environmental Quality Committee approved Senate Bill 4, which would create a first-ever system for tracking fracking.
The bill is headed to the Senate Appropriations Committee, and if it receives approval there, it will be read on the Senate Floor.
The legislation establishes how public notices, the disclosing of chemicals and the estimates for water usage would be documented and shared with the public.
The proposal mandates scientific research on fracking and its environmental impacts.
The bill also puts a moratorium on further fracking Jan. 1, 2015, if the research on environmental impacts is not completed by that time.
Known technically as hydraulic fracturing, fracking is the process of injecting water, chemicals and sand into shale rock deep underground to open up fissures and free up hard-to-reach oil and gas.
Drillers have experimented with fracking for decades, but only in the past few years have advances in technology and rising oil prices made the practice economical on a large scale.
With today’s technology, experts now estimate there to be 15.4 billion barrels of extractable oil in the Monterey Shale, a huge underground rock formation in California.
Speculators are leasing tens of thousands of acres of federal land for drilling in California.
Last month, U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal ruled the federal government overlooked the risks of fracking when it leased land in 2011 in Monterey and Fresno counties.
Fracking promises to vastly expand production, but it has raised serious concerns about impacts on public health and safety, agriculture and the environment. The practice has also raised concerns about groundwater depletion.
“There’s no transparency and accountability in the process right now,” Pavley said at the hearing. “If we’re going to move forward we’ve got to have the correct regulatory framework in place.”
SB 4 has been endorsed by both the Los Angeles County and Ventura County boards of supervisors, major newspapers and environmental groups.
“We believe this is an appropriate middle ground,” said Alan Fernandes, Chief Legislative Advocate for the Los Angeles County Chief Executive Office.
Fran Pavley represents California’s 27th Senate District, which includes about half of the Santa Clarita Valley.
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