The drive to regulate the contentious extraction process called hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," has narrowed in focus: lawmakers have winnowed the file of fracking-related bills to a single piece of legislation.
Senate Bill 4 by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, became the sole survivor after a bill by Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, requiring greater disclosure about the chemicals and water deployed during fracking failed to advance in committee Wednesday.
Other fracking bills have been relegated to the inactive file on the author's request, perished during floor votes or sent to wither on the suspense file. Some of those bills, particularly those that would have imposed a moratorium on fracking in California, drew vigorous opposition from the energy industry.
Senators greenlighted Pavley's bill on a 28-11 floor vote, with every no vote coming from Republican lawmakers. The bill would set up a permitting system, require energy companies to share more information with the state and with property owners and have the California Natural Resources Agency commission a study on the environmental repercussions of fracking.
It is pending in the Assembly, with Pavley's office expecting a committee referral soon.
Fracking involves firing a mixture of chemicals, sand and water underground to shatter rock formations that contain oil or gas. It's a technology that has come to fruition recently, facilitating energy booms in the Bakken shale in North Dakota and the vast Marcellus shale formation that stretches across a large band of the northeastern United States.
California has only recently moved to regulate the process, but lawmakers have faulted the California Department of Conservation's Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources, or DOGGR, for being slow to craft rules that some lawmakers say are still ineffective.
That sense of urgency is heightened by the potential of the Monterey Shale, an energy-rich formation in central and southern California that has represented an untapped boon for years. The maturation of technologies like fracking and horizontal drilling has ignited hopes of an energy windfall, and although energy companies argue that the technology is not there yet, lawmakers have cited the Monterey Shale in pushing for new regulations and taxes.
PHOTO: And then there was one: the only fracking bill to survive is one authored by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, seen here during session in the Senate chambers in Sacramento, Calif. on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.