Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Frackin' Morons

It's hardly comforting to know that the California state legislature is just as prone to cut deals with lobbyists as our representation in Washington. My latest sense of outrage was provoked by Michael Hiltzig's latest column.

Fracking has a lot of friends these days. There's the oil and natural gas industry, which spends more than $4 million a year lobbying in Sacramento. And there's Halliburton Co., which pioneered the technique in the 1940s and remains a huge player in the field. The company's former CEO, ex-Vice President Dick Cheney, got Congress in 2005 to exempt fracking from regulation under the Clean Drinking Water Act, and it employs one of the best-connected lobbying firms in the state.

Now, I hadn't realized that fracking had been going on here in California for quite a while, since the 1960s according to Hiltzig. Unlike the current use of the process to tap into natural gas, the California fracking has been used to get at oil deposits too hard to reach by the normal procedures. Apparently state regulators weren't keeping up either. They knew there were some fracking 'wells', they just didn't know how many or where they were. Nice, eh?

All of the came to light when another company (Veneco) wanted to use fracking in the Monterey Shale region. State Sen. Fran Pavey (a Democrat) wanted to find out more about current regulations only to discover that there were none and the state agency which is supposed to have oversight had no information. Apparently the agency was content with "self-regulation" by the oil and energy companies.

So Sen. Pavey introduced a very modest bill, and it never made it out of committee:

The slain bill, introduced by state Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), would have done nothing to actually regulate fracking. It merely would have required that drillers notify local property owners and water authorities in advance that fracking was going to take place, and that groundwater be tested before and after the drilling so that any damage produced by the drilling could be pinpointed. The idea, Pavley says, is that "if there's nothing to worry about, let's go through a thoughtful monitoring and reporting approach to address the concerns the public has."

Nevertheless, whether out of ignorance or misplaced solicitude for a well-financed industry, the state Senate killed the bill in a bipartisan 18-17 vote. Another bill, much watered down, remains on life support in the Assembly.
[Emphasis added]

Mr. Hiltzig is being too generous. The industry doesn't want any regulation and its members don't want the public to know what chemicals are being used because they don't want to get stuck with the costs of cleaning up the mess they will undoubtedly make. That industry got their message across to state legislators. I guess we'll have to find a way to get our message across. November is coming up.

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