California's fracking opponents introduce new moratorium bill

Fri Feb 21, 2014 6:01pm EST
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By Rory Carroll

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - California lawmakers have unveiled a new bill that would halt fracking and other controversial oil extraction practices in the state until a comprehensive review of their impact is complete, reigniting a legislative debate that fracking opponents lost last year.

The bill, introduced Thursday by state senators Holly Mitchell of Los Angeles and Mark Leno of San Francisco, would put the brakes on fracking until the completion of a multi-agency review of the economic, environmental and public health impacts.

The bill, whose submission was first reported by Reuters last week, would also halt the use of acids to dissolve shale rock to increase the flow of oil into wells until the report is finished.

It would also broaden the scope of a study called for as part of a bill introduced separately last year, since passed into law, that required oil companies to disclose more data about their activities.

The proposed, expanded study would include health risks posed by fracking to low-income residents like those living near Los Angeles' Inglewood Oil Field, the nation's largest urban oil field where both fracking and acid is being used, according to Mitchell, who represents the predominately minority community.

Last year's bill did not seek to place a moratorium on fracking while a study was conducted, an outcome that infuriated many environmentalists in the state who see fracking as a threat to drinking water supplies and a potentially large source of planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions.

Fracking, where large amounts of water and some chemicals are pumped underground at high pressure to break apart shale rock and release oil, is considered a key tool in cracking California's Monterey Shale, a massive deposit that is estimated to hold up to 15 billion barrels of hard-to-reach oil.

The bill faces long odds in the California state legislature, where a similar bill that called for a moratorium failed by a wide margin last year.   Continued...

Kimberly Ramsey (R) protests fracking outside the State Capitol after Governor Jerry Brown delivered his State of the State address at the Capitol in Sacramento, California, January 22, 2014. REUTERS/Max Whittaker