The California State Legislature has been busy this week amending and voting on bills relating to hydraulic fracturing. The biggest move was yesterday's Senate vote to pass SB 4, sending the bill to the Assembly. SB 4 would require operators to obtain permits specifically allowing fracking activities. These permits must be provided to other property owners as a form of advance notice. SB 4 would also require the operator, after completing fracking operations, to post on a publicly accessible website information relating to the volume and contents of the fracking fluid used, but would allow fracking fluid suppliers to claim trade secret protection for the chemical composition of the fluid additives. See the May 2, 2013, post for more information on SB 4.
As currently written, SB 4 would also impose a moratorium on fracking, from 2015 until completion of an independent study on its impacts; however, the original author, Senator Fran Pavley, has indicated that she will remove the fracking moratorium provision from the bill. That would leave only one active fracking moratorium bill in the California legislature - AB 1323. That bill was also amended this week, reducing the requirements for lifting a proposed moratorium from a study and report on the impacts of fracking (see May 1, 2013, post) to the adoption of the Department of Conservation's Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) regulations. If AB 1323 is enacted as amended, the bill would only prevent fracking activities until the effective date of the DOGGR regulations, which are currently under development. DOGGR expects to commence formal rulemaking on the fracking regulations in the next several months.
Also continuing to advance, AB 7 was amended and passed by the Assembly Appropriations Committee. AB 7 would require an operator to obtain approval to perform fracking activities, beginning in 2014, and to disclose the chemicals and volumes of water used in its operations subject to trade secret protection as claimed by the fracking fluid supplier.
With the removal of the fracking moratorium provision, SB 4 is the most likely of the surviving bills to pass the California legislature. SB 4 may complete with the similar AB 7, assuming it makes it to the Assembly floor, which would also require approval of fracking activities and disclosure of the volume and contents of chemicals used in fracking fluids. Both bills provide for trade secret protection.
In addition to the bills that advanced, several bills stalled or failed this week. After the Senate Appropriations Committee passed SB 395, it was moved to the inactive file and thus did not make it to the Senate floor. SB 395 would have removed the exemption from hazardous waste regulations for water produced by fracking operations (see May 2, 2013, post). In the Assembly, AB 288 failed on the floor. However, AB 288, which would have originally required a permit specific to fracking (see April 17, 2013, blog post), was essentially gutted by amendment before reaching the floor and ultimately would have had little effect on fracking operations.
Relating to water quality, AB 669 and AB 982, also stalled this week. The Assembly Appropriations refused passage of an amended version of AB 669, which would have required regional water quality control board (RWQCB) approval of the proposed disposal of fracking wastewater and groundwater monitoring plan. AB 982, also requiring RWQCB approval of a groundwater monitoring plan, was held in Assembly Appropriations.