California Legislature passes fracking regulation bill

State Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) talks with Assemblymen Philip Ting (D-Scotts Valley), left, and Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) before the Assembly voted on her fracking bill.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

SACRAMENTO — A heavily lobbied bill that would give California the nation’s toughest regulation of a controversial oil drilling technique won easy passage Wednesday from the Legislature.

The bill now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown, who said Wednesday that he would sign it into law.

At issue is the practice of hydraulic fracturing, better known as fracking. It is a process that involves injecting mixtures of sand, water and chemicals to free oil and natural gas trapped deep underground in shale formations.

The measure had widespread support from most environmental groups, but some of them withdrew their endorsement just before the Assembly vote Wednesday. They argued that the proposal was too weak and did not force drillers to disclose all needed information about chemicals injected in wells.

Oil companies opposed the bill, arguing it would make it harder for them to exploit the estimated 15 billion barrels of oil in the Monterey Shale Formation in the southern San Joaquin Valley.


On Wednesday, SB 4 by Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) cleared the Assembly on a 47-17 vote and cleared the Senate by 28 to 8.

Pavley said her bill is needed because California currently does not regulate fracking and other so-called well-stimulation procedures. Underground water supplies could be at risk in areas where fracking occurs, she said.

The bill also would require state regulators to oversee a related process that uses acid to retrieve the hydrocarbons, she said.

Twitter: @marclifsher