Late last week, the state Senate Appropriations committee approved a statewide moratorium on fracking, sending Senate Bill 1132 to the senate floor for a vote this week. The bill cleared the committee in a 4-2 vote just days after the estimate of extractable oil in the Monterey Shale was reduced by 96 percent from 13.7 billion barrels to 600 million.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, has been linked to air and groundwater pollution and to causing earthquakes. SB 1132, co-authored by state senators Holly Mitchell and Mark Leno, requires the California Natural Resources Agency to complete an “independent scientific study” on the effects of fracking and acidizing by June 30, 2016; it will also create a ban on fracking until the effects are known.
Senators Kevin De Leon, Alex Padilla, Jerry Hill, and Darrell Steinberg all voted in favor of SB 1132, while senators Mimi Walters and Ted Gaines opposed the bill. Oil Change International, an organization that works against the use of fossil fuels and advocates for a switch to clean energy, recently reported that Gaines and Walters received on average nearly three times as much money from Big Oil contributions than the four senators who voted in favor of the moratorium—Walters reportedly receiving $82k and Gaines receiving $29k.
Following the May 23 hearing, the Senate Appropriations Committee released a fiscal summary of the bill. According to this summary, the scientific study mandated by SB 1132 would require a one-time cost of $1 to $2 million. The moratorium would also cause a loss of state revenue; although the number is unknown, the fiscal summary estimates that the loss would be “at least in the mid-tens of millions.”
If the bill passes the state Senate, it will head to the Assembly for consideration. If SB 1132 becomes law, the California Natural Resources Agency would partner with the California Council on Science and Technology to complete the study. Upon the study’s conclusion, a report would be submitted to the governor, who would then determine if the moratorium should be lifted.