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Senate Appropriations Committee Approves Fracking Moratorium Bill
by Dan Bacher
Friday May 23rd, 2014 4:27 PM
“The cost-benefit analysis of fracking in California has just changed drastically," said Senator Holly Mitchell in a statement. "The costs to people, homes and the environment remain unacceptably high, but we now also know that the projected economic benefits are only a small fraction of what the oil industry has been touting."
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Senate Appropriations Committee Approves Fracking Moratorium Bill

by Dan Bacher

In spite of the millions spent by Big Oil on lobbying in Sacramento every year, the California Senate Appropriations Committee today voted 4 to 2 to approve a bill, SB 1132, to place a moratorium on fracking (hydraulic fracturing) in the state.

SB 1132, authored by Senators Holly Mitchell and Mark Leno, now moves to a vote on the Senate floor. Senators Gaines and Walters voted agains the bill while Senators De León, Padilla, Hill and Steinberg voted to advance the bill to the floor.

The bill moved forward the same week that the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reduced its previous estimate of recoverable oil in California by 96 percent.

“The cost-benefit analysis of fracking in California has just changed drastically," said Senator Mitchell in a statement. "The costs to people, homes and the environment remain unacceptably high, but we now also know that the projected economic benefits are only a small fraction of what the oil industry has been touting."

“The latest report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration reduces prior estimates of oil potential by 96%. Why put so many at risk for so little?" Mitchell asked.

“There’s no ocean of black gold that fracking is going to release tomorrow, leaving California awash in profits and jobs. We have the time, the need and, in SB 1132, the mandate to halt fracking while we determine if and how it can be done safely in California," she said.(http://sd26.senate.ca.gov/news/press-releases/2014-05-22-absent-gold-rush-oil-sen-holly-mitchell-s-fracking-moratorium-bill#sthash.0Y2zs3cZ.dpuf)

David Turnbull of Oil Change International pointed out that those who voted against the legislation received big campaign contributions from Big Oil. (http://priceofoil.org/2014/05/23/ca-senate-approps-fracking-moratorium-big-oil/)

"As usual, those voting against safeguarding the public interest and in favor of Big Oil’s wishes have received far more in Big Oil political contributions than those voting in favor of climate and community safety and against dangerous oil extraction processes," said

The numbers, according to the organization's Dirty Energy Money database, tell the story:

On average, Senators voting against the moratorium have received nearly 3 times as much in Big Oil contributions than those voting for

The two Senators voting against the moratorium have received over $110k in Big Oil money combined (Sen. Walters = $82k, Sen. Gaines = $29k)

"As the vote comes to the California Senate floor in the coming days, you can be sure the oil industry will put the pressure on. The question is whether the members of the California Senate will listen to the people, who recent polls show resoundingly support a moratorium on fracking, or the Big Oil benefactors lining their campaign coffer," said Turnbull.

"And, of course, Governor Brown could also step in any time now and enact a ban on fracking in the State…but so far he appears to be listening to his Big Oil friends as well," noted Turnbull.

A previous analysis by Oil Change International showed that the 2 Senators voting against the the passage of fracking moratorium by the Senate Environmental Quality Committee in April received 16 times as much in fossil fuel contributions, on average, than those Senators in support of the bill.

The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) that is leading the campaign to frack California spends more money every year on lobbying in Sacramento than any other corporate group. Catherine Reheis-Boyd, the former Chair of the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Blue Ribbon Task Force to create alleged "marine protected areas" in Southern California, is the President of the Association.

In her latest statement on the Western States Petroleum Association blog, Reheis-Boyd claims, "The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA), revision does not change the estimate of the amount of oil present. It only changes their estimate of how much of that oil can be produced given the current state of technology in California." (http://www.wspa.org/blog/post/“technically-recoverable”-oil-california’s-monterey-shale-formation)

She used the new estimate as an an opportunity to promote new "research and exploration," which you can bet would be subsidized by taxpayers' dollars.

"This change in the estimate of recoverable oil indicates the need to continue to invest in research and exploration in this area to adapt technologies that have proved successful at producing oil from shale resources elsewhere to California’s unique geology," she claimed. "We have a great deal of confidence that the skill, experience and innovative spirit possessed by the men and women of the petroleum industry will ultimately solve this puzzle and improve production rates from the Monterey Shale."

Reheis-Boyd's organization spent a total of $5,331,493 in 2009, $4,013,813 in 2010, $4,273,664 in 2011, $5,698,917 in 2012 and $4,670,010 in 2013 on lobbying at the State Capitol - and spent $1,456,785 in just the first 3 months of 2014. (http://www.truth-out.org/speakout/item/23365-californias-big-oil-dirty-dozen) You can bet that a good chunk of this money spent so far this year was spent on trying to stop Senate Bill 1132.

A report released on April 1, 2014 by the ACCE Institute and Common Cause also reveals that Big Oil's combined spending on lobbying and political campaigns in Sacramento amounts to a stunning $266.9 million over the past 15 years. (http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/04/14/how-big-oil-bought-sacramento/)

However, the oil industry's money, power and enormous influence over state officials doesn't change the fact that the Energy Information Administration's estimate for technically recoverable oil in the Monterey Shale has been reduced from 13.7 billion barrels of oil to just 0.6 billion barrels of oil.

As Turnbull said so well, "With reports showing the bonanza that Big Oil wants Californians believe is largely a fantasy, and two-thirds of Californians supporting a stop to fracking in the state, Big Oil is on its heels. It’s time the people’s voice was heard over rustle of Big Oil dollar."

Senate Bill 1132 Background:

SB 1132 requires the California Natural Resources Agency to facilitate an “independent scientific study” on well stimulation treatments (fracking and acidizing) and their hazards and risks to natural resources and public, occupational, and environmental health and safety by January 1, 2015.

The legislation would also:

• require the Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) to adopt rules and regulations for well stimulation treatments by January 1, 2015, in consultation with the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), the California Air Resources Board (CARB), the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), CalRecycle, and any local air and regional water quality control boards;

• require DOGGR to complete a statewide environmental impact report (EIR) by July 1, 2015 ;

• allow operators to continue well stimulation practices while DOGGR completes its regulations, providing that the well owner complies with interim requirements.

If fracking is not banned, groundwater and surface supplies will be polluted with numerous toxic chemicals, including methanol, benzene, naphthalene and trimethylbenzene. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, evidence is mounting throughout the country that these chemicals are making their way into aquifers and drinking water.

Human health, endangered Central Valley salmon, steelhead and other fish populations and many wildlife species will be imperiled by increasing water pollution in California, as well as by the increasing use of water for fracking that is badly needed for people, farms and fish during the current drought.

In a letter to Governor Jerry Brown on November 13, 2013, 20 prominent scientists from throughout the country wrote: "We believe that the process of unconventional fossil fuel development including shale tight oil and gas development in the Monterey Shale formation using hydraulic fracturing, acidization, and other forms of well stimulation will exacerbate many of these environmental threats, particularly climate disruption, local air and water pollution, and resource consumption. Thus, the decisions you make about the development of unconventional oil and gas production from shale in California will hold important consequences for California and the state’s future." (http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/california_fracking/pdfs/Letter_From_Scientists_to_Jerry_Brown_2013_11_13.pdf)