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CALIFORNIA ENACTS NATION’S FIRST COMPREHENSIVE FRACKING LAW–AND EVERYONE’S UNHAPPY
Posted on October 3, 2013 by Richard Frank
Controversial But Promising, SB 4 Constitutes Tangible Progress on the Fracking Front
Late last month the California Legislature passed, and Governor Jerry Brown signed into law,
the nation’s first comprehensive system of regulating hydraulic fracturing,
the oil and gas drilling technique more commonly known as “fracking.”
It turns out that no one–the oil and gas industry, surface landowners or environmentalists–is particularly happy with the new law.
And that actually suggests that, on balance, the new California fracking law represents a positive development for environmental law and policy.
The new legislation, SB 4, was authored by one of the California Legislature’s strongest environmental voices–State Senator Fran Pavley. Pavley is generally considered a rock star in state, national and global conservation circles.(She wrote the nation’s first law requiring greenhouse gas emission limits for motor vehicles in 2002, was a principal author of AB 32, California’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, and sponsored landmark water legislation in 2009.)
But Pavley’s leadership this year on the fracking front has strained her relationship with the environmental community a bit, at least for the moment.
Fracking involves the injection of fluids and other materials into underground oil and gas wells at high pressure, cracking underground rock formations and extracting previously inaccessible oil and gas deposits.
The technology has been around in primitive forms for many decades. What makes modern fracking both far more effective and controversial is that current fracking technology involves injection of a combination of water, sand and a mixture of often-toxic chemicals. Current-generation fracking techniques, combined with other advances in underground drilling technologies, have been wildly successful in recent years to increase domestic production of oil and gas production.(Indeed, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that, largely as a result of the fracking boom, the U.S.“is poised to overtake Russia as the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas this year, a startling shift that is reshaping energy markets and eroding the clout of traditional pretroleum-rich nations.”) They have launched a domestic energy development boom that has dramatically improved America’s balance-of-payments outlook, and greatly aided in reducing the nation’s longstanding dependence on unreliable foreign oil and gas imports.
Additionally, the environmental community can–or at least should–welcome several other consequences of the fracking boom: the increasing availability of domestic natural gas reserves is important as a relatively low-polluting “bridge fuel” to transition to a domestic energy portfolio that
relies primarily on renewable energy sources.
And the fact is that the new abundance of relatively inexpensive U.S. natural gas has done far more to displace and reduce coal as a U.S. energy source than have all the protestations of the conservation community.
But fracking has also become enormously controversial as a result of its documented, adverse environmental effects–including widespread groundwater contamination, negative wildlife impacts, and increased conventional air and greenhouse gas pollution.
In the absence of any comprehensive regulatory scheme–until now–fracking controversies have generally played out in the courts and political arena.
With this backdrop, the enactment of SB 4 represents a very big deal.
Above and following from
Legal Planet- Insight & Analysis:
Environmental Law and Policy
Consider Halliburton's and PXP's histories and reputations when considering the issue
The legislation directs California’s Division of Oil and Gas to develop the nation’s first-ever, statewide permit system to regulate fracking and related drilling technologies, and to have that system in place by January 1, 2015.
Perhaps wisely, the legislation provides few details as to how California regulators should structure the new fracking permit system.
(The California Legislature similarly delegated broad discretion to the California Air Resources Board under AB 32 to devise the program for California to reduce the state’s aggregate greenhouse gas emissions, a decision which in hindsight has proven exceedingly wise.)
One particular feature of SB 4 that is a most positive development concerns trade secrets.
Many oil and gas firms have in the past refused to disclose the chemical composition of their fracking fluids to government or the interested public, claiming that this information constitutes proprietary trade secrets not subject to public disclosure.
By contrast, SB 4 presumes such information can and should be disclosed, and places the burden squarely on the industry to prove to state regulators–and the courts, if necessary–that the composition of their fracking fluids truly qualifies as a trade secret. Leaving aside the larger question of whether trace secret laws should ever be allowed to trump public health and safety concerns, this is a welcome reform.
Conversely, the biggest current controversy over California’s new fracking law is how it relates to California’s “little NEPA” statute, the California Environmental Quality Act.
11th hour amendments to SB 4 made clear that fracking can continue unregulated at the state level until the new SB 4 permit scheme takes effect in 2015.
In the meantime, the Division of Oil and Gas is directed by the law to “conduct” an environmental impact report under CEQA “to provide the public with detailed information regarding any potential environmental impacts” of fracking in California. But that language is ambiguous, at best:
does it mean that state regulators are supposed to prepare some sort of “master” or “program” EIR studying California fracking practices generally? Or is it mandating EIRs for some or all fracking projects on an individualized basis during this interim period?
From the statutory language, it’s nigh impossible to tell.
SB 4′s inclusion of these confusing CEQA provisions caused a number of California environmental groups to renounce their prior support for the bill at the conclusion of this year’s legislative session.
In a statement accompanying his signing of SB 4, Governor Jerry Brown obliquely referred to some drafting ambiguities that he believes require fixing in 2014 clean-up legislation.
(My strong hunch is that the Governor was referencing the bill’s vague CEQA provisions in his comments.)
For her part, Senator Pavley has announced that she’s amenable to such revisions to SB 4.
Those are most welcome developments.
In the meantime, all eyes are on the California Division of Oil and Gas, a small and previously-obscure state agency that has generally avoided public scrutiny over the years.
Just as CARB was thrust into prominence for its work to implement AB 32, and the Department of Toxic Substances Control has achieved similar attention for its recent launch of California’s controversial “Green Chemistry” initiative, so too will there be tremendous media, industry and public scrutiny on the Division of Oil and Gas as it develops the nation’s first statewide program to regulate oil and gas fracking.
Let’s hope those California regulators prove up to the task.
Bill Molinari put's it in writing
"Residential Development with Continued Oil Production"
"The residential development the Cook-Hill Specific Plan proposes includes continued pumping of oil on part of the property."
"If this option is considered the most critical concern must be "Can you safely build a residential community in the midst of a working oil field"
Experience elsewhere says NO WAY"
A determination by DOGGR that projects over active oilfields are self would help.
As Bill says- there is NO DO OVER
So leaving the Zoning as "OPEN SPACE" and Park and or Nature Reserve may be the best option.
Oil company gets to pump additional oil and make more profits and pay more "fees" to the city.
Oil company does not have the HUGE LIABILITY of residences.
From the Fullerton Coyote Hills blog
basicall the same problem as Montebello
"The bribe offered to the Fullerton School District (“free money! Gimme!”),
as well as the greed of the non-profit moneygrabbing sector shows special interests only too willing to trade their “green” integrity for a little bit of the other green Chevron bilks from the US taxpayer.
The fact is however, that city analyses indicate no major new revenue coming in from this development.
The schools get some cash, greatly offset in the long-term by having to serve even more students.
Nobody else basically gets a dime."
The Elephant in the Closet is that Fullerton is a abandoned, non active,(but still not cleaned up) former oilfield, a "brownfield".
Montebello is a fully active, pumping for years to come, "blackfield".
Post The Coyote hills findings in the "Montebello Foreword" thread.
What does Montebello Foreword and the Candidates have to say???
You can't trust "BIG OIL" or Haliburton who PXP uses
what is in this stuff anyway
Election 2013: Santa Fe Springs oil tax increase wins by wide margin
The Green Way: Whittier oil project splatters across the county
By Steve Scauzillo, San Gabriel Valley Tribune
Newspapers are the next best thing to being there, to borrow a slogan from AT&T.
But a news story doesn’t always capture everything, no matter how hard a reporter tries.
The issue of proposed oil well drilling in the Whittier Hills, a nature preserve purchased by county taxpayers who were assessed after the passage of Proposition A in 1992, went countywide Tuesday. That’s when 117 people signed up to speak before the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
After years of reporting this proposal through the eyes of the Whittier City Council, the state Attorney General’s Office, the Superior Courts and now the supervisors, I obtained a transcript of the hearing. Here are some quotes from the meeting that didn’t make the news:
In response to Whittier’s lawyers questioning the legality and purpose of the hearing:
“We would like to minimize the risk that the argument will be asserted and some court could find that your board lost its consent rights.”— County Counsel Larry Haefetz
On the environmental group the Mountains Conservation & Recreation Authority settling its lawsuit in order to collect $280 million in oil royalties:
“Basically the MRCA gets to boost their maintenance budget by drilling our hills? That’s an insult.”—(former Whittier-area state Sen.) Martha Escutia
Should the provisions of Prop. A in which lands were bought to preserve open space end in 2015?
“It’s not there to be negotiated when the price of oil goes up and it becomes more economical to drill for oil when it might not be economical to drill for oil 10, 20 years ago. It is open space. Period. Over and out,” Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky
“The spirit and intent of Prop. A is to preserve, not exploit and destroy land. If you allow this project to go forward, you will be setting a precedent for all Prop. A lands that are not protected to become subject to development.”— Ms. Garcia, a docent with the Puente Hills Habitat Authority
Should the provisions of Prop. A in which lands were bought to preserve open space end in 2015?
“The city of Whittier lied to the people. They have broken their promise. What happens to people who do not tell the truth? If I lied to my parents or teachers, I get in serious trouble ... especially with my dad.”— Daniel Donovan, 12
Will oil drilling do irreparable damage to the Whittier Hills?
“I spent a year doing my senior project in that area and I can tell you that nature itself is in recovery. To allow another project would jeopardize all the work Prop. A has done for students like myself,” David, graduate of Whittier College
“This project will create thousands of high-paying jobs in Whittier and surrounding communities, create billions of dollars from royalties in taxes for the state, Whittier and the Puente Hills Habitat Authority,” Johnny Jordan, president of Matrix Oil Corp.
Is this more than just a Whittier issue?
“This is really a big issue that is affecting not just the Whittier Hills but all of California. More than 70 percent of voters in California favor banning or heavily regulating chemical injections into the ground to tap oil and natural gas,” Damien Luzzo, Davis, Calif.
“We saw a fracking frenzy in Pennsylvania.
You have an excellent opportunity here today to make a statement.
But to also learn from the mistakes of others and the mistakes that we made,” Lance Simmens, former policy analyst to Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell.
“I’m here from the Westside to let our brothers and sisters on the Eastside know that we will not allow their parklands to be used to get money to buy parkland in other areas of Los Angeles County. We all stand together,” Dorothy Reik, president of Progressive Democrats of Santa Monica Mountains.
As the Mtb oil field is valued by the county tax assessor at only $4 million (was Jack Hadjinian sitting on the board that gave it that value? Hmmm), could we get $4 million in prop A money and buy it from Freeport?
Freeport ought to pay us to take it and shed the liability.. Freeport is not in the home building business.
The article posted by "News Today" had a link to "News Earlier" By Louis Sahagun
September 21, 2013,
Chemical odor, kids' nosebleeds, few answers in South L.A. neighborhood
An oil pumping operation in South L.A., newly ramped up after years of dormancy, has neighbors worried despite officials' assurances.
Monic Uriarte says she began having headaches and bouts of dizziness three years ago, about the time she and her neighbors began smelling a chemical odor on the streets and in their homes.
Then Uriarte's 9-year-old daughter and other children in the University Park neighborhood of South Los Angeles began suffering from recurring nosebleeds and respiratory ailments.
After a little sleuthing, Uriarte and others traced the smell to property shielded from the neighborhood by a 12-foot-high, ivy-covered wall
Residents of the low-income community complained to state air quality officials 251 times over the next three years —
up from just eight complaints from University Park in 2008-09.
The district insists that based on its air sampling, the odors are harmless and pose no health risk. Instead, the issue
"boils down to incompatible zoning decisions," said Mohsen Nazemi, the district's deputy field officer for engineering and compliance.
(incompatible zoning decisions: like oil fields and condos?)
James Dahlgren, a toxicology expert and former assistant professor of clinical medicine at UCLA, does not agree.
Dahlgren is investigating the complaints of illness on behalf of the Esperanza Community Housing Corp., which uses public and private funds to build affordable housing projects in the University Park area.
Dahlgren said the odors cannot be dismissed as harmless.
"If you can smell it, it's not safe,"
"These people are experiencing symptoms."
In Baldwin Hills, residents near the (PXP)Inglewood Oil Field want to know if structural damage to their homes was caused by drilling.
In Culver City, a venting of fumes over homes triggered a class-action lawsuit.
Today, Allenco's operations are kept behind brick walls, shaded by oak trees and fringed with manicured lawns
A sign inside the walls warns:
"Danger: H2S. Poisonous Gas."
No such signs are posted outside the site, which is a few yards from schools and homes
H2S is hydrogen sulfide, a colorless, flammable gas that occurs naturally in petroleum and natural gas.
Exposure to it triggers symptoms consistent with some of the complaints from the neighborhood. Repeated exposure can cause severe eye and respiratory irritation, headache, dizziness and vomiting, according to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Living near active wells is hazardous to your health.
Los Angeles Times
EPA officers sickened by fumes at South L.A. oil field
AM Alert: California's new fracking law yields draft regulations
Read more here: http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/20...
Do we trust PXP and Hailiburton?
Chevron pipeline explodes, burns in rural Texas
HOUSTON (Reuters)- A Chevron Corp pipeline exploded near a tiny Texas town south of Dallas on Thursday, shooting flames high in the air and prompting evacuations from nearby homes and a school district,
Not just nearby homes, but the whole town of 700 people were evacuated, and the next day, still none can return.
Preview of coming Montebello attractions
If University Park residents can raise hell how much hell could the Condo owners raise?
Boxer reiterates call for oil facility to suspend operations
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) on November 8, 2013, called on AllenCo to halt operations while the EPA investigates claims of health impacts from fumes at its University Park facility.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) renewed her call on Friday for the operator of an oil and gas pumping facility in University Park to suspend operations while the Environmental Protection Agency investigates claims that fumes from the site are making local residents sick.
In 2010, the operator, AllenCo, more than quadrupled its oil production at the location. Residents say that noxious fumes are causing them respiratory ailments, headaches, nausea and nosebleeds.
An oil well complex in the midst of apartments just north of USC was visited by Environmental Protection Agency officials,
who got sick from fumes, it was reported last Saturday.
A regional administrator for the EPA told the Los Angeles Times that she and her staff “suffered sore throats, coughing and severe headaches that lingered for hours” after visiting the Allenco Energy Co. oil production site.
Sen. Barbara Boxer last week urged Allenco to suspend operations while the EPA investigates complains from nearby residents that they have persistent respiratory problems, including nosebleeds and nausea, from oil-related fumes.
Oh, yes. Build 1200 condos on top of 300 wellheads, with pumping stations for 100 of them similar to Allenco's facilities.
If you have wellheads you are going to have to have access for drill rigs to refurbish the pumps, pull the pump rods.
Oil well service equipment has traditionally been very dirty diesel powered, and very noisy.
and then there are the Halliburton trucks doing whatever it is (undisclosed) that they do to increase well flow (gravel packing? fracking?, acid washing? whatever works?
Others have suggested that a "Community Services District" be established to regulate oilfield operations.
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