California, Illinois lawmakers welcome frackers
Lawmakers rolled out red carpets for frackers last week in California and Illinois.
California’s Assembly rejected, by a 37-24 vote, AB 1323, which would have imposed a moratorium on fracking until state regulators issue environmental and safety guidelines. Apparently the rush to cash in on oil and gas deposits just cannot wait for such trivial matters. “Let’s unleash this magnificent potential for jobs,” Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R) said, according to the AP.
A separate bill requiring scientific studies, water testing, and public notification of chemicals used by frackers — but imposing no moratorium — passed California’s Senate and will now move on to the Assembly for a vote.
Fracking for gas and oil is well underway beneath private land in California, though there are no requirements for energy companies to tell anybody what they’re up to, meaning it’s difficult to know how widespread the practice is. (Fracking for oil on federal lands in the state, meanwhile, is on hold pending an environmental review ordered by a federal judge.)
The practice of fracking is pitting farmers against energy companies in California. From The New York Times:
By all accounts, oilmen and farmers — often shortened to “oil and ag” here — have coexisted peacefully for decades in this conservative, business friendly part of California about 110 miles northwest of Los Angeles. But oil’s push into new areas and its increasing reliance on fracking, which uses vast amounts of water and chemicals that critics say could contaminate groundwater, are testing that relationship and complicating the continuing debate over how to regulate fracking in California.
“As farmers, we’re very aware of the first 1,000 feet beneath us and the groundwater that is our lifeblood,” said Tom Frantz, a fourth-generation farmer here and a retired high school math teacher who now cultivates almonds. “We look to the future, and we really do want to keep our land and soil and water in good condition.”
“This mixing of farming and oil, all in one place, is a new thing for us,” added Mr. Frantz, who is also an environmentalist and is pressing for a moratorium on fracking.
In Illinois, a bill that clears the way for fracking to get rolling in the state is headed for the desk of Gov. Pat Quinn (D), who says he’ll sign it. The Natural Resources Defense Council reported last week that some fracking has already been happening in the state, unbeknownst to most Illinoisans, but many companies have been waiting for the state to establish its regulatory framework before sinking their drills. This bill imposes “some of the toughest disclosure laws in the country” on frackers, the Chicago Tribune reports, but it’s not nearly as tough as green activists had wanted. From the Tribune:
Under new regulations which would take effect as soon as Quinn signs them into law, companies who wish to frack for oil or gas … must disclose a wealth of new information to the public, which has the opportunity to appeal permits and launch lawsuits against energy firms who attempt to skirt the law.
Environmental groups who helped hash out the bill say they would have preferred a moratorium on fracking.
So, yes, some safeguards are being put in place. But overall, lawmakers seem to hope the legislation will spur an oil boom in the state. The Chicago Tribune summed up the news this way: “Let the fracking begin.”