California fracking legislation appears poised for final passage
Houston (Platts)--17Aug2011/417 pm EDT/2017 GMT
The author of a bill pending before the California state legislature
that calls for the regulation of hydraulic fracturing has garnered support
from a broad cross-section of stakeholders and appears likely headed for
passage, the bill sponsor told Platts Wednesday.
Assembly Member Bob Wiekowski said the proposed legislation, AB 591, has
been presented to the Senate Appropriations Committee, its final stop before
it is moved to debate on the Senate floor, likely some time during the week
of August 29.
Representatives of California Governor Edmund Gerald "Jerry" Brown Jr.
have indicated that the governor would sign the legislation after lawmakers
bring it to his desk, Wiekowski said. The bill would, for the first time,
place the regulation of fracking under the state Division of Oil, Gas and
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The legislation would require drillers of oil and gas wells to provide a
complete list of the chemicals used in fracturing operations, as well as to
report on the volume of water used in fracking, the volumes of contaminated
water disposed of and the method of disposal. If it becomes law AB 591 would
give California the toughest regulations regarding the disclosure of fracking
fluid chemical in the country.
Wiekowski said he has been working with a variety of interest groups,
including environmental and community associations, industry associations and
oilfield services companies such as Halliburton in an attempt to craft a
piece of legislation that addresses the interest "of everyone involved in"
the fracking debate.
"I think we can get something everybody can live with," he said. "The
discussion has been enlightening for both sides."
In an interim step in the legislative process, the Senate Appropriations
Committee has placed the bill on the suspense calendar, where it conducts
reviews of all bills that would have an impact on the state budget of more
On August 26 the committee will decide which bills to release from the
suspense calendar. Those bills then will go on to be debated on the Senate
While many environmental organizations have gotten behind the proposed
legislation, the bill has failed to win the unqualified support of the
state's oil and gas producers.
Wiekowski said he is continuing to make adjustments to the bill to
address two concerns that the exploration-and-production industry still has
about it: providing strong confidentiality protections for trade secret data;
and relaxing the data reporting requirements in areas of the state with no
underground aquifers used as sources of drinking water.
"I've learned more about the trade secrets than I ever thought was
possible," Wiekowski said.
As for addressing the latter issue, he said the legislation "is tailored
for the geology of California," and would take into account the unique needs
of the state's E&P industry.
Tupper Hull, vice president of strategic communications for the Western
States Petroleum Association, said he was "guardedly optimistic" that the
bill could still be amended to where the association could endorse it.
"The bill has gone through a significant amount of changes that we view
as positive," he said.
However he said the two sticking points -- "the proper protection for
competitive sensitive information" and the lack of a need to protect
groundwater, "where no groundwater is present" -- remain unresolved.
Hull said he remains hopeful that the two issues can be resolved. "The
author and his staff have shown willingness to work with all parties. It's a
big tent," he said.
"I've tried to make everybody happy, even the ardent opposition,"
--Jim Magill, firstname.lastname@example.org