EnergyWire recently interviewed Hinson Gravelle & Adair LLP attorney Eric Adair for an August 17 story on hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” The story, “Fracking bills derailed in committee” (subscription required), recounts the failure of two California Assembly bills – AB 591 and AB 972 – to make it out of the Senate Appropriations Committee for a full Senate vote. Mr. Adair was quoted in the story, which also featured an excerpt from his August 16 blog post, “California Fracking Legislation Stalls in Senate Appropriations Committee.”
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Reprinted from EnergyWire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net. 202/628-6500
Fracking bills derailed in committee
Ellen M. Gilmer, E&E reporter
Published: Friday, August 17, 2012
Legislation designed to regulate hydraulic fracturing in California died in committee yesterday, leaving the Golden State one of the most unregulated fracking hot spots in the country for now.
The two bills — a moratorium and a chemical disclosure requirement — did not make it past the Senate Appropriations Committee. The moratorium, from state Rep. Betsy Butler (D), would ban the issuance of permits for new wells using the process that shoots chemical-laced water and sand underground to release trapped oil and gas.
The second bill, from Rep. Bob Wieckowski (D), would require drillers to report the ingredients of fracking fluids on the website FracFocus, a project of the Ground Water Protection Council and Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission. Many California drillers already voluntarily disclose fracking fluids, with the exception of those deemed trade secrets.
Eric Adair, a Los Angeles-based energy attorney, said he was surprised the disclosure bill didn’t make it to the full Senate for a vote, as industry representatives had indicated it could be workable with some adjustments.
Industry opposition to the moratorium, on the other hand, had been loud and clear.
“To impose a moratorium on something that has been proved to be very effective at developing domestic energy resources, in the absence of any evidence in California that there’s a justification for it, is not sensible,” Western States Petroleum Association spokesman Tupper Hull said in June, adding that it would be a “draconian solution.”
Environmentalists lamented the demise of both bills.
“We’re extremely disappointed because we think this legislation needs to give firm guidance to the Division of Oil and Gas on what’s included in fracking regulations,” said Bill Allayaud, Environmental Working Group’s California director of governmental affairs.
The California Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources released a “road map” in May stating its intent to review state oversight of oil and gas by ensuring well integrity, establishing testing requirements and requiring some disclosure of chemicals used in fracking. California currently does not require any type of permitting for hydraulic fracturing and therefore has no data on the number of fracked wells in the state (EnergyWire, June 5).
Allayaud said the Wieckowski bill, A.B. 591, would have installed “important side rails onto the rulemaking process for fracking.”
Immediately after yesterday’s Appropriations Committee hearing, environmentalists were speculating on potential last-ditch efforts that could be made during the final two weeks of the session to resurrect fracking legislation. This would likely come in the form of a “gut and amend” tactic, in which lawmakers amend an unrelated bill by stripping its language and replacing it with something else — in this case, fracking language. It was too soon to tell yesterday whether fracking critics would go that route or simply wait for next year’s session.
Adair, the attorney, pointed out that the failure of legislation doesn’t mean the end of regulatory efforts for fracking in California.
“The legislature and the Brown administration can now apply pressure on the [Division of Oil and Gas] to expedite that process,” he wrote in a blog post last night, “which makes more sense politically than pushing through legislation that lacks DOG support.”