Sep 14, 2013

UPDATED: California Lawmakers Approve Fracking Bill

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Oil and gas drillers that use a technique known as fracking would face new rules in California under legislation sent to the governor's desk Wednesday.

The measure includes a requirement that drillers disclose the chemicals they use in the process of hydraulic fracturing. The process involves injecting water, sand and chemicals into deep rock formations to release oil or natural gas.

Senators approved SB4 on a 28-8 vote. They acted hours after the Assembly voted 47-17 to approve the plan amid concerns from conservation groups over last-minute changes affecting environmental reviews.

"The public simply needs to know what it is exposed to," Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, said in arguing for her bill.

No one spoke against the bill, and several Republicans supported it.

"It could be a very significant job-creator in the state of California," said Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres.

Evan Westrup, a spokesman for Gov. Jerry Brown, said the governor intends to sign the measure.

Environmentalists across the nation have raised concerns about fracking, questioning whether the chemicals used could harm public health, or air and water quality. Industry officials say the technique has been in use for decades, proving it to be safe.

Drilling companies are exploring whether fracking could help them access oil in California's Monterey Shale.

Under the bill, state officials would have to complete a study by January 2015 evaluating risks from fracking and other well-stimulation techniques, such as using acid to break apart oil-rich rocks. The bill also would require drillers to seek permits and notify nearby landowners before starting work.

The legislation also calls for a state website to publicly list the chemicals used in fracking. Nearby landowners would have a chance to have their water wells tested before and after fracking occurs.

"Without this bill, fracking will continue to go on without oversight," Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, said during debate. "It's a good bill. It's good for Californians."