With the May 31 deadline for getting bills out of their house of origin, the California State Legislature has been busy addressing bills relating to hydraulic fracturing, including rejection of a moratorium.  The Senate passed SB 4 with Senator Pavley’s announcement that she would remove the fracking moratorium provision to get the bill to the Assembly.  With that change, there will be no surviving bills proposing a fracking moratorium this legislative session.  The other fracking moratorium bills did not make it out of the Assembly before the deadline – AB 1323 failed on the floor and both AB 1301 and AB 649 were held in Appropriations. 

As it goes 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.

Also still in play, AB 7 made it to the floor but was pulled for further amendment and sent back to the Natural Resources Committee.  Because it was amended on the floor, AB 7 is not subject to the May 31 deadline and may still make it out of Assembly.  As amended, AB 7, like SB 4, would require a permit to perform fracking activities.  AB 7 would also require proof that the regional water quality control board (RWQCB) approves of the disposal method and location of wastewater associated with the operations.  Also like SB 4, AB 7 would require the operator to provide a copy of the approved permit to surface property owners 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 compete with the similar AB 7, if it ultimately passes the Assembly, 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 fracking moratorium bills, several other bills relating to fracking failed to make it out of their house of origin before the deadline.  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 failed to advance. AB 669, which would have required RWQCB approval of the proposed disposal of fracking wastewater, failed on the Assembly floor. However, this provision was added to AB 7.  AB 982, requiring RWQCB approval of a groundwater monitoring plan, was held in Appropriations.

Co-authored by Michael N. Mills and Robin B. Seifried.