New York, California Legislation Takes Aim at Fracking

Concerns over the environmental impacts of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, have prompted legislative pushes in both New York and California. In the Empire State, the Assembly has voted to extend a fracking moratorium – set to expire this summer – for another year. Meanwhile in California, legislation has been proposed that would regulate fracking, something that has for years taken place in the state with very little oversight.

The moratorium on high-volume, horizontal hydraulic fracturing in New York State is scheduled to expire on July 1, which is when the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is supposed to release a report on the potential hazards of fracking. The new moratorium, which passed by the New York Assembly by a vote of 91-46, would continue the fracking ban until July 1, 2012. According to the Albany Times-Union, should it become law, the moratorium would cover fracking for oil as well as gas, and would cover vertical drilling using hydraulic fracturing.

According to YNN report, the Democratic Speaker of the Assembly, Sheldon Silver, says further study of the environmental impact of the deep drilling, especially on drinking water, is needed before any permits can be issued.

“The natural gas locked within the Marcellus shale isn’t going anywhere. We’re not going to lose it. There is time to do the science. There is time to act with caution and with thoughtfulness,” Silver said.

The moratorium still has to pass the Republican-controlled state Senate, and it’s not certain that it will. According to the Albany Times-Union, Republicans in the Senate are more favorably disposed to fracking, viewing it as an important economic opportunity for the state.

In California, meanwhile, fracking for oil has gone on for years with little notice, and almost as little oversight. But according to the Associated Press, that’s starting to change. Legislation has been proposed that would not only regulate fracking, but make companies disclose the chemicals they use in their fracking fluid, the amount of water they’re pumping and where they are fracking.

According to the Associated Press, the California Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources or DOGGR hasn’t been able to determine where and how often fracking occurs in the state, in part because of budget constraints. Drillers in several counties, including Santa Barbara, Monterey, Kern, Ventura and Los Angeles, are believed to use fracking, but no one knows for sure. Once a driller has a permit from the DOGGR, they are permitted to use any technique to access the oil – including fracking – without any additional reporting to regulators.

Frackers in California insist that the technique won’t cause the same types of problems that have been seen in Pennsylvania and other states, the Associated Press said. They point out that wells in California are located at greater depths, and are further away from water tables. They also say the hydraulic fracturing they employ uses less fracking fluid.

Not everyone in the state agrees with that assertion, however. According to the Associated Press, people living in Baldwin Hills, Los Angeles County, have claimed that fracking there has caused health problems, as well as property damage.

The fracking oversight bill that recently passed the California Assembly would be one of the toughest in the nation if it becomes law. The bill is now headed to a Senate Committee.

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