Environmental Groups Call Foul on Oil Industry’s Last Minute Lies About Fracking Bill SB 4

Sep 5, 2013
By Jenesse Miller

Big Oil is at it again.

Several environmental groups advocating for Senate Bill 4 (Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills) responded today to news that the oil industry is lobbying California lawmakers to exempt most hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) from review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) with new, outrageous and inaccurate claims about the sole remaining fracking bill before the state legislature.

(See the full press release here.)

Oil lobbyists with the Western States Petroleum Association—representing oil companies including Chevron who together account for 80 percent of the oil and natural gas drilled in California—are walking the halls of the Legislature, telling lawmakers that SB 4 would require environmental impact reports under CEQA for each of California’s approximately 50,000 existing oil and gas wells. This is simply not true.

They are using this false claim to request that fracking and acidizing of existing wells be exempt from CEQA entirely—meaning the injection of chemicals or any new processes they invent would be exempt from CEQA forever.

"The oil industry wants a free pass from environmental review for any fracking or acid jobs at existing wells, seeking preferential treatment for fracking over how any other large industrial projects are reviewed in the state,"  said Damon Nagami, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Southern California Ecosystems Project. "This is bad public policy.  With fracking and other oil production methods that use toxic chemicals on the rise, we need SB 4 to inform Californians about oil and gas operations in their neighborhoods, and to provide basic protections for our air, land and water."

(See "No free pass for fracking in California" on NRDC's blog, here.)

“The oil industry has trotted out the CEQA 'bogey man' in a desperate attempt to prevent the regulation of the ever-increasing practice of injecting highly toxic acids into underground formations, which SB 4 happens to force the California Division of Oil Gas and Geothermal Resources to do,” said Bill Allayaud, California Director of Government Affairs for the Environmental Working Group. “The oil industry has trumped up ridiculous claims about CEQA in a desperate attempt to stop the most rigorous fracking regulation law in the country from passing the legislature. The industry keeps saying fracking is safe, so what are they afraid of?”

“The oil industry’s request for preferential treatment is an affront to all Californians who care about the environment, health and safety.  Everyone should have to play by the same rules, including the most profitable companies in human history,” said Andrew Grinberg, Oil and Gas Program Coordinator, Clean Water Action. “An exemption from CEQA for one of the dirtiest industries in the world would be laughable, if the potential consequences were not so dire.”

“For too long, California has allowed Big Oil to call its own shots and has done little to protect communities from potential dangers of fracking. Now lobbyists for the oil industry are walking the halls of the Capitol in the final days of the session with yet another lie about Senator Pavley’s SB 4 to justify their outrageous demands for CEQA exemptions – and members of the legislature shouldn’t buy it,” said Sarah Rose, CEO of the California League of Conservation Voters.

The California Division of Oil Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) is responsible for regulating the oil and gas industry, yet does not require a permit to fracture or inject acid into a well. DOGGR does not ask which chemicals are used in the process, where well stimulation is taking place or how much water is used. California must do more to ensure the protection of our environment, communities and health from fracking and other well stimulation techniques like acidization.

WSPA spent the most on lobbying in Sacramento in the first six months of 2013 of any interest group, according to quarterly documents released by the California Secretary of State. The association spent a total of $2.3 million to lobby legislators and other state officials, including their efforts to stop several bills addressing fracking in the state.

State Senator Fran Pavley’s SB 4 is an important first step in protecting California from the dangers of hydraulic fracturing, acid injection and other risky well stimulation techniques. The bill includes a number of key provisions, including:

  • Requiring the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) to affirmatively issue a permit for all well stimulation activities and prohibiting permit issuance where the proposed well stimulation presents an unreasonable risk;
  • Requiring disclosure of key information such as the chemicals used, volumes and sources of water and disposition of wastewater;
  • Requiring direct prior notice of well stimulation permits to nearby property owners and tenants;
  • Requiring baseline and subsequent groundwater monitoring;
  • Compelling interagency cooperation; and
  • Conducting an independent scientific study on the risks of well stimulation acitivities.

SB 4 is expected to be heard in the California Assembly within the next week.



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