What fracking moratorium?


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On May 24, SLO Clean Water Action announced plans to deliver a petition asking state Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian (R-SLO) to support efforts to stop fracking in California. At that time, three bills in legislative committees threatened to put the kibosh on the controversial oil extraction practice until the state could study its effect on water quality.

However, when it came time to deliver the petition on May 30, the California Legislature had all but written off the possibility of a fracking moratorium. The boldest of the three bills was suffocated in committee, while another, Assembly Bill 1323, was gutted before failing its floor vote.

The final stroke came when Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Thousand Oaks) told the L.A. Times on May 29 she would support removing the moratorium language from her bill, Senate Bill 4, if that would help get it through the Assembly. S.B. 4 would require an operator to notify the community of its intention to frack a well, but would also have imposed a conditional moratorium if the state couldn’t complete a water quality study by 2015.

“Oh my gosh, what a difference five days can make,” local activist Jeanne Blackwell remarked.

Achadjian ended up voting against A.B. 1323.

Fracking—or hydraulic fracturing—involves the injection of large quantities of chemically treated water and sand into wells to loosen mineral deposits otherwise too expensive to extract. Concerns over the impact of fracking on groundwater sparked a national debate in 2012 that has lasted through this legislative session.

Fracking activity continues to stir up controversy and litigation in Santa Barbara, Kern, and Monterey counties.

The oil industry opposes efforts to regulate fracking with broad legislative strokes. The agency that oversees energy development in California continues to slowly pursue administrative rule changes.

The two petitions SLO Clean Water Action delivered to Achadjian contained 940 local signatures. Similar efforts statewide led to the collection of approximately 100,000 signatures.

With the anti-fracking bills dead, environmental lobbyist Adam Scow of Food and Water Watch said efforts will shift to pressuring Gov. Jerry Brown to adopt a moratorium by administrative regulation.

Brown’s previous statements on the matter indicate that that’s an unlikely prospect.


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