SB 624, by Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, calls for removing Serpentine as the state rock because it contains a mineral that some say can lead to cancer.
Geologists cried foul, saying the cancer connection doesn't pose an actual threat. Some, including Bee columnist Dan Walters, suggested the real intent of the legislation is to aid asbestos litigation (The Consumer Attorneys of California, which supports the bill, dismisses that claim).
And now a band of geologists on the "geoblogosphere" are taking the fight to Twitter, launching a campaign using the #CASerpentine hashtag to save the state rock.
They say the gut-and-amend bill "slipped under the radar of serpentine aficionados" in its early forms because it originally addressed composting.
Modesto Junior College geology professor Garry Hayes, acknowledged that the serpentine can be harmful in some forms, but called the fight a "teachable moment" about the state rock.
"Serpentine has an incredibly deep, rich history in California," added Stanford's Jon Christensen, an environmental historian who is writing a book about serpentine. "It is connected to the Gold Rush, earthquakes, plate tectonics, and habitat for California's iconic spring wildflower displays, as well as endangered species."
Romero spokeswoman Teala Schaff said the legislation is aimed at raising awareness about mesothelioma, asbestos disease and its causes.
"Serpentine (which occurs in "veins" throughout our geography) can contain asbestos. Does every pebble contain every mineral and chemical? No. Just as every raw egg does not contain salmonella. The fact is the public should be aware of the risk," she wrote in an e-mail.
This post was updated with a response from Romero's spokeswoman.
IMAGE: Serpentine rock with veins of asbestos. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.